Billy the elephant has been living in unnatural and inadequate conditions at the Los Angeles Zoo for nearly three decades. The 32-year-old Asian elephant arrived as a “gift” from Malaysia when he was four-years-old, and he has suffered every day since. As highly intelligent, social, and active animals, elephants in the wild sprawl vast expanses of land with their family herd daily. Billy, on the other hand, has been living in isolation in a cramped concrete enclosure, where he is made to endure forcible breeding practices, and the overwhelming stress of all this has caused Billy to exhibit classic signs of the serious psychological disorder, zoochosis, such as swaying and head-bobbing.

Celebrities Cher, Bob Barker, and Lily Tomlin have long been fighting to free Billy and send him to a sanctuary, and they even put together the funds to relocate him, but he has remained at the zoo. A court decision in 2012 made the LA Zoo upgrade their elephant exhibit and ordered them to regularly exercise the animals, but visitors report Billy is still living in isolation and exhibiting symptoms of zoochosis.

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However, there is a bright ray of hope for Billy, as a court hearing on January 24th ordered that Billy’s health and well-being be evaluated in an independent analysis by veterinarian not associated with the zoo. This is one big step toward freedom for Billy!

Councilmen Paul Koretz and Mitch O’Farrell brought the motion forward at City Hall, stating that the zoo provides inadequate space for Billy. “Billy has long since earned an opportunity to live free of doubts about the adequacy of his living situation,” the motion states. “Relocating him to a sanctuary is the solution and there are indications that philanthropy may be available to underwrite it, making it cost-effective for the zoo.”

The council members also want the zoo to end all current or future elephant breeding practices, explaining that those forcible procedures are invasive at best. Cher, Lily Tomlin, and Slash from Guns ‘n’ Roses were also at City Hall lending a voice for Billy’s freedom.

It has been a long uphill struggle to grant elephants legal rights, and this court decision is an encouraging sign that the tides are changing and that a more humane future is possible.

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The single greatest thing you can do to combat the issues surrounding wild animals in captivity is by never buying a ticket to any attraction that exploits animals for a profit. Many people still believe that zoos are safe places for animals, but this is typically not the case, so please make sure to spread awareness of the dangers involved in captivity and share this with your network!

Image Source: Billy the Elephant/Facebook

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