The following issues are at the core of our campaign to Free the Oregon Zoo Elephants:
On April 14, 1962, the world welcomed the ﬁrst baby elephant born in the Western Hemisphere in 44 years. The people of Portland named him Packy and he became an instant celebrity. Baby Packy was adorable from the moment he was born – running and frolicking among his family of giants. We fell in love. Now Packy is 54 years old, infected with TB, arthritis and joint disease and due to his TB is currently isolated from the herd and for the most part, from the public as well.
In 2008, an Oregon Zoo Bond Measure, asking voters for $125 million with the “purpose and intent“ of providing “more humane conditions for elephants”, appeared on Metro’s November Ballot. In the campaign to promote its passage, Metro and Oregon Zoo ofﬁcials made promises for an off-site, 100 + acre “reserve”, “preserve” or “sanctuary” where the Oregon Zoo elephants would freely roam. Then Oregon Zoo Director Tony Vecchio was quoted as stating that Packy, then 47 years old, would be living on this reserve before his 50th birthday.
Day after day, visitors at the Oregon Zoo stop for a brief look at the elephants, unaware of the secret suffering these magniﬁcent creatures endure. The Oregon Zoo cannot meet either the physical or social needs of its eight elephants. Forced to live in artiﬁcial displays, away from their families and social structures, unable to roam in the richness and variety of a natural landscape, they suffer.
Out of Money & Out of Time
The $125 million Zoo Bond Measure passed by voters in 2008, promised more humane conditions for elephants. The budget for expanding the elephant exhibit from 1.5 to 6 + acres was $19 million as stated by Metro and Oregon Zoo ofﬁcials. Since that time, the $19 million budget has increased by 328% to $58 million.
The Business of Breeding
In 2011, Metro and Oregon Zoo ofﬁcials turned their backs on voters who supported the 2008, $125 million Zoo Bond Measure. During the campaign, citizens were led to believe that passage of the measure would include the establishment of an off-site elephant reserve where Oregon Zoo elephants would freely roam. Instead, Metro documents reveal the zoo plans to develop the “Remote Elephant Center (REC)”, formerly called a preserve, as a breeding ground and increase the size of the herd from the 6 remaining elephants to 19. And then in February of 2016, Metro cancelled the funding for the REC, so no offsite facility is being built.