Every year kids and parents have flocked to the Oregon Zoo to see Packy on his birthday in April. This year, however, he was nowhere in sight.

The last time he was in view, Packy looked very ill, as no doubt he is with all his medical conditions, including tuberculosis. When you peek behind the curtain of rhetoric repeatedly spouted by the zoo, a not so happy picture emerges: elephants suffering from a host of zoo-related mental and physical illnesses.

Free the Oregon Zoo Elephants (FOZE) is a group of dedicated animal advocates who are committed to securing a better future for the zoo’s eight elephants. We urge Metro, the regional government agency that oversees the zoo, to commit to honoring the intent of the 2008 zoo bond measure by creating a multi-acre preserve, a retirement home for the elephants.

We urge a halt to all breeding that only succeeds in confining the world’s largest land mammals to a few scant acres, which will not and cannot satisfy the needs of these highly intelligent and social beings. The babies are often taken from their mothers at an early age and sold to circuses or animal brokers.

The new Elephant Lands project is an elephant boondoggle, a colossal waste of taxpayer money. Instead of throwing more good money after bad, we urge Metro to divert monies from the new habitat to retire the elephants to a preserve and start the process of closing the elephant exhibit. More than 22 zoos have already done that and are still in business and doing just fine.

We urge the media to obtain the latest medical records for all eight elephants and publish them so that the public can see the facts and judge for themselves if confining elephants for life is really worth the years of suffering they endure.

Foot rot is the No. 1 cause of death of elephants in zoos. Most of the zoo’s elephants, if not all, have foot disease. It is caused by standing on hard ground and by walking over their own wastes, which is hard for them to avoid as they live in such confined spaces.

We believe that once the public is fully aware of the conditions the elephants are living under, they will be on board with this new direction for the Oregon Zoo, a direction that is supported by science. Scientific American recently stated that orcas and elephants do not belong in captivity.

Now that zoo Director Kim Smith has departed, it is time to end the old paradigm that guarantees more suffering, and start heading in a more progressive and humane direction for the elephants.

And finally, we urge Metro to release Packy to sanctuary now. How much more does Packy have to give to the people of Oregon before he is allowed to retire? He has given 52 years of his life, capturing the hearts of young and old alike. Isn’t it time we give him something back?

Please join us in urging Metro to give him the gift of his freedom in a beautiful serene sanctuary where he can, for the first time in his life, experience life as a real elephant, and not just an exhibit.

Courtney Scott is president of the board for Free the Oregon Zoo Elephants, a Portland organization. For more information, visit the website

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