first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREOregon Ducks football players get stuck on Disney ride during Rose Bowl event“The people of Los Angeles should be very proud of their City Council. They’re going to have a world-class zoo.” The council voted 13-2 for the exhibit, with Councilmen Dennis Zine and Bill Rosendahl opposed. “When I look at what we’re doing to them in the zoo, I don’t think it’s appropriate,” said Zine, who recounted his experience seeing elephants in the wild while on a photo safari to Africa. “They belong in natural environment, not an enclosure.” The decision to build the new elephant enclosure comes after more than a year of scrutiny by animal rights activists, who claimed the zoo’s original plan for a two-acre preserve was too small. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa concurred, and ordered an independent review of the elephants’ health and living quarters. The elephant experts recommended against sending the animals to sanctuary, instead suggesting the zoo expand the animals’ current half-acre enclosure to more than three acres. On Wednesday, dozens of animal rights activists packed council chambers for the final vote, with half in favor and half opposed. Critics wore T-shirts printed with a quote from Villaraigosa: “A zoo is not an appropriate place for an animal as large as an elephant.” After the vote, Villaraigosa said he still personally opposes keeping elephants in the zoo but would not contest the council’s decision. “I won’t veto this. The council has spoken clearly with this 13-2 vote, and I’m going to accede to the will of the council.” The Elephants of Surin exhibit, to be completed by mid-2008, will be funded, in part, with $17.7 million in voter-approved park bond money, $4.5 million donated by the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association and $2.3 million from the sale of private property donated to the zoo association. The city will make up the rest of the cost with $14 million borrowed from the city’s Municipal Investment Corp. To repay the loan, the city will pay $1.12 million each year from the general fund for 20 years, which will add $8.5 million to the $14 million cost. Exhibit opponents complained the exhibit was too expensive and would not provide enough space, particularly if the zoo ever increases its display to six to eight elephants as the general manager has suggested. As the City Council voters were tallied, opponents yelled “Free the Elephants,” and Catherine Doyle with the Los Angeles Alliance for Elephants said the group will continue pushing the city to ship the animals to a sanctuary. “This is a big loss for taxpayers and an even bigger loss for the elephants.” But zoo supporters said the decision will maintain one of the zoo’s most popular attractions, and provide a healthier home for the elephants. Actress and L.A. Zoo volunteer Betty White regularly joins the elephants on their morning walks and she praised the City Council’s action. “Now we’re got to get it done as quickly as we can.” (213) 978-0390160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! In pursuit of a “world-class zoo,” the City Council voted Wednesday to build a $39 million elephant exhibit – complete with grasslands and waterfalls – at the Los Angeles Zoo. Animal activists have urged the city for the last year to send the zoo’s three elephants – Ruby, Gita and Billy – to a sanctuary where the animals would have more space. But an overwhelming majority of the council was convinced the elephants are crucial to the zoo experience and that they would thrive in the 3.5-acre Elephants of Surin exhibit. “We have three elephants at the zoo… Right now we have to make it better for them, safer for them,” said Councilman Tom LaBonge, who has been the leading council proponent for the exhibit. last_img