Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Pretty fireworks...

This will be two posts in one day, but oh well. This isn't exactly the sort of post that can be scheduled to go up later.

I also want to note that this is something that I'm sure I don't have all the facts on, though I think I know enough, and I don't know that the general public will ever know every little detail.

On November 30th the local (to me in Portland, Oregon) Oregon Zoo welcomed a new member to its elephant herd, a lovely baby girl. People have been very excited about this, exclaiming over the new baby just generally rejoicing. I even voted on the new baby's name on the zoo website, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one who was excited to do so.

Then the Seattle Times wrote an article stating that the stud elephant belongs to Have Trunk Will Travel (HTWT), a company that rents out elephants and apparently has a history of animal abuse. (Most people are screaming about abuse, but I've also seen a few who say they are quite ethical. I don't know the truth.) The contract for using him as a stud gives ownership of babies # 2, 4, and 6 to HTWT, and ownership is apparently transferred 30 days after the baby is born.

This calf is the stud's second baby at our zoo. Obviously, this means that she will belong to HTWT. A lot of people are now furious and screaming that the zoo basically lied to us by neglecting to mention this little detail before now.

As a matter of fact, I found a news article talking about this contract a year ago. The zoo hasn't dwelt on it, and I admit that I hadn't known about the contract before now, but I don't think it was exactly hushed up either. I think the zoo just didn't see the point of discussing it, seeing it as a non-issue.

The controversy over this contract has only been in the last 24 hours, so it's a story still in progress. But the zoo has stated on their Facebook page that they're keeping the baby. And in a news conference this morning that they said that they are negotiating specifics with HTWT, but that the baby will stay at the zoo.

I guess I could have just sent you to read the various news articles, but it seemed better to explain it here and add links. What I'm really interested in, and why I decided to write this post, is to comment on the comments on the zoo's Facebook page. I'm fascinated by the wide range of responses, from people (like me) who trust the zoo, to those who are screaming bloody murder and threatening to boycott. They're being pretty noisy, and it's a real fireworks show. Some even commented on the zoo's announcement that the baby will stay on the zoo to cry over the supposed fact that she will be ripped from her mother in less than a month for a life of abuse and torment. Did they even frickin' read what the zoo said??

It's amazing how determined people can be to find tragedy where it doesn't exist.

It's also amazing how one news article, about a contract that was made public knowledge some time ago (but which people either missed or have forgotten about), can change a celebration over a baby elephant into a huge fuss that has people turning on our well loved local zoo.

I for one trust that the Oregon Zoo knows what it's doing. If only because it would look bad for them to say they're keeping the baby only to then hand her over. I look forward to learning the baby's name, and to seeing her when she is deemed ready to be shown to the public. I hope that those screaming bloody murder will eventually calm down. In the meantime I'm watching the pretty fireworks on the Oregon Zoo's Facebook page from people who have suddenly decided that our zoo is evil. Hopefully they'll will put away their torches and pitchforks soon.

Photo I took of an elephant at the Oregon Zoo


Debra She Who Seeks said...

People love to get worked up about stuff like this. Elephants are an especially touchy subject right at the moment. Here in Edmonton, every animal activist in North America is on our case because the city zoo won't ship an elderly, ailing elephant to a southern elephant refuge. Vets say she cannot survive the trip, but that doesn't stop anyone from trying to force the city to do what is not in the elephant's best interests.

Sarita Rucker said...

If she wouldn't survive the trip then shipping her off would be animal cruelty. Sorry everyone is after you guys about it.

Things may be calming down here. Most people seem to finally get that the baby will stay with us, though there are still some people asking why she's being ripped from her mother so young. (Did they not read the frickin' updates??) And a couple zoos have come out saying that HTWT treat their animals very well, so I'm figuring that either the accusations of animal cruelty were either false or isolated cases. I don't know.