Alaska Digest

Posted: Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Elephant's ordeal renews zoo criticism

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ANCHORAGE - Alaska's only elephant has been confined too long in dangerous conditions, animal advocates said Monday, a day after the 7,500 pound animal had to be hoisted to her feet because she could not get up on her own.

Anchorage firefighters used straps and a winch to lift Maggie Sunday evening after she had lain down between 10 and 19 hours at the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage. The compressed weight of the animal's bulk could have caused breathing and other problems, or even have killed her.

The incident renewed calls for the 25-year-old African elephant to be transferred to a warmer climate where she can exercise more and be around other elephants.

"It's time to get her out of Alaska," said veterinarian Elliot Katz, president of the San Rafael, Calif.-based In Defense of Animals. "The longer the wait, the more this unnatural and abusive environment will cause severe damage to her feet and joints, until it becomes irreversible."

Maggie might have had colic, which could have weakened her, according to zoo officials, who said Monday the elephant seems fine, is walking around and eating normally. Blood tests are under way to determine what led to the incident, said zoo director Pat Lampi.

He said concerns are now focused on ensuring Maggie is OK, not on responding to criticism from animal groups.

"We'll leave that up to the blood results, veterinarians and people who really know," he said.

$1.78 billion capital budget passes House

Juneau - Working into the early hours, the House Finance Committee passed a $1.78 billion dollar capital budget that also included money for public schools and municipalities for fiscal year 2008, which begins July 1.

The committee convened late Sunday night and worked past midnight before approving the bill.

The bill was expected to reach the House floor Monday morning.

"Not everybody got everything they wanted," said Co-chairman Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage. "It was a fair process."

The House added about $143 million to the Senate version of the capital budget.

The House plan included $48 million in revenue sharing for Alaska communities and a portion of the funding for public schools.

The remainder of school funding is in the state operating budget, which is currently being considered in a House and Senate conference committee.

Pipeline maintenance legislation stalls

JUNEAU - A state Senate bill designed to keep oil companies from deducting facility repair costs stemming from improper maintenance is languishing days before lawmakers adjourn.

Many legislators have been concerned that BP PLC will use the current tax structure to pass the multimillion dollar costs of repairing miles of corroded Prudhoe Bay pipeline back to the state through deductions and tax credits.

The stall on the bill's progress comes as federal lawmakers plan to press BP for more answers regarding oil spills and the company's maintenance practices.

The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee plans on Wednesday to review whether any of BP's cost-cutting decisions compromised the efforts to prevent corrosion after the partial shutdown last summer of the nation's largest oil field, on Alaska's North Slope.

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