Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Elephant's Tale

Early in October I saw a Care2 Petition decrying the treatment of Packy the elephant at the Oregon Zoo in Portland.  Having spend part of my childhood in the Portland area, indeed I was there (in the Portland area, not the zoo itself) when Packy was born, and having visited the zoo since then when visiting relatives in the area, I was surprised and questioned what the petition claimed.

So I wrote to the zoo: "I grew up in the Portland area although I now live in Sacramento, CA.  I remember the excitement waiting for Packy's birth. "When is our Belle going to ring?" I have always held the Oregon Zoo in high esteem.  I was quite surprised to get a Care2 petition to save Packy from his sad life on a concrete floor without adequate exercise.  Please tell me what Packy's living conditions are and how he is doing. Thank you"

Today I received their response:

"Thank you for reaching out to the Oregon Zoo. We share your concern for Packy’s and all animals’ wellbeing, and are happy to address concerns.

"Unfortunately, some misinformation has been circulated about Packy’s condition and care. We’d like to provide you with accurate information, and we hope that it provides reassurance that animal welfare is our top priority.

"At 54, Packy is the oldest male of his species on the continent, and one of the oldest in the world. He was born at the Oregon Zoo in 1962, and lives here with his herd.

"Packy has tuberculosis, and so to prevent transmission to the other elephants, he must be physically separated from them. However, because they’re nearby, he can still smell and communicate with his family.

"TB has been documented in elephants for more than 140 years, in the wild and at zoos. As with humans, it is usually controllable with medication and often does not manifest in visible symptoms. The zoo routinely checks the elephant herd for TB as part of a comprehensive health program.

"In September, the zoo reported that a routine trunk-wash culture for Packy came back positive, indicating the presence of active TB. This was the first positive culture since Packy’s initial diagnosis in December 2013, and is an indicator that the current regimen has not successfully treated the infection. Zoo veterinarians are working with other experts to determine next steps.

"This result has had little impact on Packy’s day-to-day life: He has not exhibited clinical signs of TB, and has continued to play outside, dip in the pool, and get lots of attention from caregivers.

"Caregivers are thrilled that he has been exploring the full run of Elephant Lands — the habitat that reflects a new era in elephant welfare, and was informed by decades of learning from Packy about what elephants need to be both mentally and physically healthy. Packy ventured into the Elephant Lands South Habitat for the first time in July; he’s already identified a favorite log for pushing and scratching. In September he took his first dip in the 160,000-gallon swimming pool, bobbing for apples and yams. During the summer he was in the habit of bringing trunkfuls of water from the pool to get the mud wallow wet enough to fit his enormous body.

"Due to his advanced age, Packy has been reluctant to lie down. Caregivers have worked to get him into the pool in order to relax his joints. Now, not only has he played in the pool, but also this month he was spotted snoozing in the pool! Caregivers say Packy appears to be more agile. When he’s in the pool, he plays like he’s a calf again.

"As you probably know, Asian elephants are highly endangered in their range countries — threatened by habitat loss, conflict with humans and disease. An estimated 40,000 to 50,000 elephants remain in fragmented populations from India to Borneo. The Oregon Zoo is recognized worldwide for its Asian elephant program, and is proud to play an important role in conservation. We support a broad range of efforts to help wild elephants, and recently established a $1 million endowment fund supporting Asian elephant conservation.

"Thank you for reaching out to the zoo. Packy is a treasured member of our community, and we appreciate your concern."

I believe the Packy and his herd are well treated at the Oregon Zoo.  I also think that I need to be a little more skeptical about other Care 2 Petitions that come my way as I am, admittedly a bit of a sucker for wanting to do something to help animals in distress, especially when it is as easy as electronically signing a petiton.

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