In 1962, an Asian elephant named Packy was born at the Oregon Zoo. Without a doubt, there are better places to be born than at the Oregon Zoo, especially for a wild animal like Packy. With his enclosure of concrete floors, metal bars and a surrounding audience of glaring faces, it is anything but ideal.

Elephants in the wild spend their days roaming miles of natural habitat, foraging for fresh food, and socializing with other elephants. Packy, however, never had the privilege of growing up in the wild like other elephants.

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For the past 54 years of his life, he has been subjected to a life in an enclosure that undoubtedly pales in comparison to a wild environment. And because he’s shown signs of aggression, Packy has lived by himself for the majority of his life. Packy is currently the oldest captive male elephant living in North America but it is clear that life in captivity has taken a serious toll on his well-being.

Captive Breeding

When Packy is not languishing alone in his enclosure, he is used for the Oregon Zoo’s captive breeding program. Many zoos claim that captive breeding is crucial for the sake of conservation, however, it is extremely rare for an animal that has been born and raised in a zoo to ever be released into the wild – effectively adding to the species’ population. In fact, studies have found that zoo-born animals have little interest in breeding with their wild counterparts. Additionally, in order to maintain the “genetic integrity” of zoo animal populations, these facilities selectively breed animals and if they are no longer needed, they are simply euthanized or sold off to other zoos or private dealers.

Sadly, because Packy is part of the Oregon Zoo’s captive breeding program, he is considered valuable to the establishment (making them less likely to allow him to retire), and in the course of his life, Packy has sired seven calves. 

Like Packy, these calves will probably live at the Oregon Zoo for the rest of their lives, deprived of the life they could have had in the wild.

A History of Illness

You might complain that your bed isn’t comfy but imagine how you’d feel if you had to lie on a concrete floor every single day of your life. Packy has spent over 50 years lying on a concrete floor and, just as you’d expect, his health has suffered accordingly.

In addition to recurring lesions and abscesses on his head, caused by lying down for extended periods of time, Packy also has a hygroma on the right side of his head. He also has cracked nails and abscesses on his right foot from standing on hard concrete. Elephants can weigh upwards of 6,000 pounds and their feet and legs are designed for grassy and dirt terrains – not unforgiving concrete. Unless he gets released, Packy will have to spend the rest of his life on concrete floors, enduring the painful lesions and abscesses on his head and feet.

Adding to Packy’s struggles, in 2014, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB), leaving him fighting for his life. He was treated immediately but didn’t respond well to his medication and he even stopped eating on several occasions.

Zoo elephants are more prone to contracting diseases than their wild counterparts. Tuberculosis is a common illness spread amongst captive elephants. What is very concerning is the fact that the strain they contract is also transmittable to humans. While healthy adults aren’t very susceptible to the disease, children are at a higher risk. Sadly, it is usually children who come into close contact with captive elephants as they often want to have their pictures taken with their favorite animals.

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How You Can Help Packy

Packy is 54 years old and who knows how much longer he’ll have left? Not long if he continues living in these horrible conditions, that’s for sure. As the oldest male Asian elephant in North America, Packy deserves to live out his golden years in freedom, peace and dignity. With your help, there’s a chance that could happen.

If you would like to help Packy, here are some things you can do:

  1. Sign this petition asking Oregon Zoo to release Packy to the Performing Animal Welfare Society’s (PAWS) sanctuary in California.
  2. Do not visit the Oregon Zoo (or any other zoo) – and urge your friends not too go either.
  3. Share this article.

Image source: In Defense of Animals

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