Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Group Asks El Paso City Council to Close the Elephant Exhibit at the El Paso Zoo Following Allegation of Elephant Abuse


Animal Rights Group Asks Council To Close Elephant Exhibit


POSTED: 8:07 pm MDT August 31, 2006

August 31. 2006 -- BY: Elizabeth O'Hara/KFOX News Anchor

A nationally known animal rights group called on El Paso City Council Thursday to close the elephant exhibit at the El Paso Zoo following an allegation of abuse that KFOX was first to report.

KFOX obtained a copy of the letter "In Defense of Animals," also known as IDA, sent to Mayor John Cook as well as to City Council. It follows a report by KFOX that a zoo employee, Allan Seidon, is on administrative leave following an allegation he struck Juno the elephant sometime in the last month. The abuse allegation is the second for the zoo in less than seven years, and an anonymous source at City Hall said Seidon was involved in both incidents.

In its letter, the group argued that, "this disturbing event goes beyond one individual's actions and falls squarely on the City of El Paso for allowing the abuse to occur."

Zoo officials are not commenting on the latest abuse allegation.

IDA's letter also reminded council of its decision last year to expand the elephant enclosure, rather than send the animals to a sanctuary in Tennessee. To date, Juno and Savannah's exhibit has not been expanded.

It said, "considering the city's fiscal standing, which has been further strained by widespread weather-related damage to the city, it is obvious the City of El Paso is unable to commit the resources needed to provide the highest quality of life for Juno and Savannah."

While the group works to have the animals removed, city representative Alejandro Lozano said due process necessitates that council wait to see the results of a city investigation into what happened to Juno.

"I would see the results of what the city is going to do, the department is going to do, the director is going to do. I'll take it from there; it all depends on how they handle it," Lozano said.

Liz Kern, a spokeswoman for the El Paso Zoo, said the zoo is working on plans to expand the current elephant area into the neighboring tapir exhibit as discussed by City Council.

Kern said the added space would increase the elephant area from less than an acre to about 1.1 acres, at a cost of more than $2 million.

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