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|