Frequently Asked Questions

1. If Billy leaves the LA Zoo, where will he go and why is it better?

Billy will go to a PAWS, or Performing Animal Welfare Society, sanctuary. He will, immediately upon arrival, be given 20 acres of land to roam, and he will be given even more space as he acclimates to his new home. In the sanctuary, he will have a diverse, expansive and intellectually stimulating environment. The sanctuary offers its elephants space, social opportunities, and a diverse, expansive and interesting habitat.


2. Is it true they castrate elephants at sanctuaries?

This is ABSOLUTELY NOT true. Castration is a highly invasive technique and while some elephants in their care were castrated by prior owners, PAWS DOES NOT CASTRATE.


3. Will Billy be alone at the sanctuary?

There are numerous other elephants at PAWS. The world-renouned elephant experts who work at the sanctuary will, with great care and attention to the individual needs of each animal, maximize Billy's social opportunities when he finally arrives at the sanctuary.


4. Do sanctuaries have breeding programs?  If not, why?

NO, sanctuaries do not have breeding programs. Sanctuaries exist to provide retreat and rescue. They focus on rebuilding the often severely damaged lives of their animals, and breeding would only take away space from the sanctuary's current inhabitants, as well as limit the sanctuary's potential to rescue other elephants. There are many elephants - like Billy - in need of rescue, so breeding is not a priority at elephant sanctuaries.


5. Are breeding programs at zoos successful?  If not, why?

NO, the breeding programs at zoos are not successful.

Female elephants have a 15 to 16-week-long ovarian cycle. In zoos, however, female elephants of reproductive age often experience truncated ovarian cycles or, in extreme cases, stop experiencing ovarian cycles altogether. This phenomenon is called "flatlining" and is well document in AZA-accredited facilities. 

Elephants in the wild have NO DIFFICULTY procreating.


6. Where do the offspring of captive elephant breeding usually go?



7. Respond to specific statements by the zoo:

These statements were used by the L.A. Zoo to justify the construction of the Pachyderm Forest, a $42 million dollar expansion to their elephant exhibit:

  • Asian elephants are in danger of becoming extinct in our lifetime.
    Not if we do the right thing for their protection in the wild. Zoos contribute almost nothing in this regard.
  • Every citizen has the right to see elephants in their zoo.
    Citizens do not have this right any more than they have the right to see the Great Pyramids or the Leaning Tower of Pisa. We should stop entitling ourselves. Instead, we should focus on our ability to protect and conserve our planet.
  • Sanctuaries are for animals who have reached the end of their lives and are not places for species survival programs.
    Sanctuaries are for animals in need. They are not gated communities for the superannuated. In sanctuaries, animals are given the opportunity to heal. In this way, sanctuaries can be equated to a hospice for sick children. The children in hospice may be young, but they are no less in need of hospice care than an adult at the end of their life. The Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Uganda has 49 animals, all of which were rescued as juveniles. Dr. Jane Goodall described the Chimpanzee Sanctuary as a model for all other African sanctuaries. As the Chimpanzee Sanctuary proves, age has NOTHING to do with an animal's need for a sanctuary. 

Personally, I would not equate sanctuary with hospice, but this is purely a judgment call. To me, it sounds like we are sending Billy to sanctuary to die. Instead, I would say something like since Billy cannot be returned to his wild home for a variety of reasons, sanctuary is the best possible life we can offer him in captivity. He will have more space, expert 24/7 care, social opportunities, peace and quiet, privacy, and choice.