ANCHORAGE - A proposal is on the table to get Alaska's only elephant out of the state, and for the first time this summer, the Alaska Zoo and animal rights groups may have something to agree on.
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The Performing Animal Welfare Society, located in Galt, Calif., has offered to take Maggie and pay for her relocation costs, including air transportation, veterinary evaluations and professional training to prepare her for crate travel, zoo officials said Friday.
The facility also would pay for Maggie's keepers to travel with her to her prospective new home - 30 acres where she would live with nine other elephants. PAWS also has offered to fund a $100,000 grant for animal habitat improvements at the Alaska Zoo if an agreement is reached to relocate Maggie to its facility.
"It's a very generous offer from them, but our main concern is finding the best place for Maggie," said Alaska Zoo Director Pat Lampi. "PAWS is a well-known facility, and they do a lot of good work."
The costs of flying the 8,000-pound beast are a significant obstacle, with some estimates approaching $200,000, Lampi said.
He said Friday that PAWS is "on the short list" but officials from another facility are coming up soon to take a look at Maggie. That will be the last group, he said, and the board should be able to make a decision shortly afterward.
Alaska Zoo officials already are planning to meet with the PAWS officials, including longtime donor Bob Barker, former host of "The Price is Right."
"We have been in contact with PAWS for months now, we respect this as a viable option for Maggie and will give it full consideration when we make our decision," Dick Thwaites, zoo board president, said in a statement.