Environmentalists push Alaska Zoo to retire elephant in sunnier Clime subhead:

Posted: Tuesday, May 16, 2000

ANCHORAGE - A California-based environmental group is lobbying to get the Alaska Zoo to send its 19-year-old elephant to California.

Members of the Earth Island Institute say Maggie the elephant isn't happy in Anchorage. They say the animal needs more company and warmer surroundings.

The group said in a letter that keeping the African-born Maggie in Alaska is scientifically and morally unethical. The group claims that it teaches people, especially young children, that it's OK to provide the wrong environment for a species.

``Now is the time to retire Maggie from the cold and unnatural environment of Alaska, and to move her to a sanctuary where she can enjoy the remainder of her life experiencing sun, warmth, grass and other elephants,'' the letter said.

Zoo director Sammye Seawell said she hadn't seen the letter although she's received dozens like it over the past two months since People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals posted an article online about Maggie. The letters have been thrown into the trash.

``We really love Maggie, and we're not going to do what idiots say that don't know what they're talking about,'' she told the Anchorage Daily News.

Several letter-writers have described a life of misery for Maggie that includes living in an unheated building and never getting to go outside. But Seawell said Maggie has a heated building and can go in and out whenever she wishes. She also has her own pond.

Maggie, 19, was brought from a game farm in New York to the Anchorage Zoo when she was a year old to be a companion for Annabelle, another zoo elephant.

Annabelle died in 1997 and Seawell said Maggie has seemed happier since her peer's passing.

``Maggie was the most unruly, awful animal to get along with,'' Seawell said. ``When Annabelle died, we thought it was going to get worse. But it's been the exact opposite. She couldn't be nicer. She's just happy to go out and roll in the snow.''

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