A special thanks to our supporters over the years

On February 9, 2017, 28 days from his 55th year in captivity, Packy was euthanized at the Oregon Zoo. No longer a popular icon for the zoo, no longer a viable sperm donor, no longer able to entertain the public, Packy, like so many sick and aging captive elephants, was put to death.

It wasn’t the ending we envisioned for him, not the rolling green hills of a sanctuary, or even the offsite preserve promised to us in the 2008 bond measure, and then voted down 7 years later by Metro. There is some relief knowing that Packy’s last few months on earth were relativeley pain free. Having been taken off the TB drugs that were making him so ill, he was gaining weight and exercising more. His keeper fought to save his life, but Packy’s death, though untimely and unnecessary, was far from the worst thing that befell this long suffering bull elephant.

What did we learn from Packy’s life and death? Very simply elephants do not belong in captivity. Of course we already knew that but Packy’s sad story reinforces that truth. Many still think that a life in captivity is better than a brutal death in the wild. But time and again, that notion is proven wrong. In 2016, Maharaj had gotten into trouble by eating too many of the farmers’ crops. Within 46 hours of being captured and held in an elephant camp in India’s Anamalai Tiger Reserve, Maharaj repeatedly slammed himself into the small wooden structure that contained him, collapsed and within five minutes, he was dead. Even getting plenty of sugar cane and coconut leaves was not enough for Maharaj to sacrifice his freedom.

Unlike elephants who live wild and free, elephants born and bred in zoos or imported there as infants, have learned to adapt to years of being confined. Howerver, that doesn’t mean that their wild natures are completely tamed. Packy kicked at his door and showed off his machismo by challenging another bull, Hugo, making him quiver and run, Tusko tried to bash in the roof of his new barn. Tyke ran away from the circus, wild and free at last, if only to be gunned down in the streets of Honolulu. The quest for freedom is so fearsome, only death can erase it.

While we mourn Packy and all the elephants who died or are still suffering in confinement, we celebrate the successes. Nosey is on the road to permanent freedom, thanks to all the advocates who fought for so long for her release from her cruel owners. Ringling sent its elephants packing, and shut its doors forever. Two new sanctuaries opened for elephants. The Global Sanctuary for Elephants in Brazil and Elephant Refuge North America in Georgia. The Elephant Sanctuary in TN and PAWS in N. CA continue to provide safe haven for former zoo and circus elephants. A new All Bulls Sanctuary is in the works.

More celebrities are speaking out. Ellen Degeneris started her Kindness Campaign to bring awareness to the plight of wild elephants. Many tourists have become aware of the cruelty of riding elephants in Asia and are refusing to take part in this practice. Rangers including teams of all women rangers, are courageously standing up to poachers and saving more elephant lives in Africa, even while sometimes losing their own.

in 2017 FOZE was once again on the front lines speaking out for the elephants at demos, testifying at Metro, writing letters, doing media interviews and public outreach at street fairs and schools. We couldn’t have done it without the help of all of our supporters who generously gave of their time and resources.

We are now looking forward to 2018, as we forge ahead with our  International Free the Elephants Conference & Film Festival slated for April 2018 in Portland. 

This conference will bring elephant experts and advocates together from around the world, to inspire, energize and motivate us to solve the many problems facing elephants. We will hear from those working on the front lines to rescue and rehabilitate, from attorneys fighting in the courts to win their rights and their freedom, watch illuminatiang films, including Gods in Shackles, presented by the filmmaker Sangita Iyer, and most vital, we will make a plan to move forward after the conference, by forming an international coalition, a unified force to tackle the opposing forces.

Join us by registering now. We are counting on all of you to be a part of the effort to bring about happier endings for elephants everywhere.

In Packy’s honor, we pledge to do all that we can to make it so.

Thank you.