ANCHORAGE - The Anchorage Assembly has stepped up pressure on the Alaska Zoo to make a decision on the future of Maggie the elephant.
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Assembly members Tuesday night unanimously approved a resolution urging zoo directors to consider moving the animal to a warmer climate, and to make the decision soon.
The African elephant is one of the zoo's top attractions and the only elephant in Alaska.
However, twice last week the elephant lay down but could not raise herself back to her feet.
The elephant weighs an estimated 8,000 pounds, and animal experts say the internal organs of such large animals can be damaged if they lie down too long.
Zoo officials called in city firefighters for assistance. Firefighters used muscle and mechanical power to hoist the animal to her feet.
Tests by veterinarians indicated the elephant's blood counts and blood chemistry were within normal ranges. Zoo director Pat Lampi said the elephant may have lay down because she had colic or stomach pain.
But animal rights groups who say the elephant's living conditions are inappropriate used the incidents to renew calls for moving the animal to an elephant sanctuary in the Lower 48.
They say elephants are herd animals that need to be around others of their kind. They also object to keeping an elephant in a concrete enclosure during Anchorage's cold months.
East Anchorage Assemblywoman Sheila Selkregg sponsored the resolution Tuesday. Her original version called on zoo directors to move Maggie to a warmer, more elephant-friendly environment.
"Everybody is concerned that Maggie is going to die," Selkregg said during a break at the assembly meeting.
Assembly members amended the resolution so that it did not specifically tell the zoo what to do. The final version said the zoo board should consider moving the elephant and should make a decision soon.
"I'm convinced at this stage that Maggie does need to be in a different climate, in a location where there are other elephants," said Assemblyman Dan Sullivan.