Out of Alaska

Alaska; famous as one of the world’s last great wilderness areas. Home of wild bears, the salmon run and wide open skies….. and an elephant. Yes, there’s a solitary elephant at Alaska’s Anchorage Zoo.

Her name is Maggie and she’s been the subject of a long debate between the zoo authorities and the animal protection movement. The fundamental question has been: is Anchorage in Alaska an acceptable place to keep a solitary female elephant? The pendulum of that debate has swung back and forth – the zoo even tried to get Maggie to take more exercise in the long (and I mean LONG) winter months by installing a giant treadmill (Maggie was not impressed).

Originally an orphan from a South African elephant cull, Maggie arrived in Alaska in 1983 and has been on her own since 1997 when her companion died at the age of 33. Maggie herself has been experiencing poor health, twice collapsing in the last few months.

However, that is all about to change. The Zoo Directors have agreed that Maggie can leave. She will forsake Alaska for the more temperate climate of Northern California and the PAWS Elephant Sanctuary, run by Born Free’s long-standing friends, Pat Derby and Ed Stewart. There she will have the chance to be integrated into the small group of rescued elephants that roam the Sanctuary’s 60 acre plus African elephant enclosure (that’s nearly twice the size of the entire London Zoo).

And she could be there for Christmas, according to latest news reports.

I’ve been to PAWS many times. In fact I was there when it opened at its new site near San Andreas. Pat and Ed and their team do an amazing job, not just for their elephants but for over 30 rescued tigers as well. It’s a huge (some would say mammoth) task and I know they’d appreciate any help – so if you would like to support them (and Maggie) just drop me a line (will@bornfree.org.uk).

Maggie’s story represents a small but important step in ending the unacceptable confinement of wild animals in inappropriate environments. The Anchorage Zoo have seen the light and made the right decision – for that we should be thankful. But while it may be a small step in terms of changing the zoo industry, it’s a giant step for Maggie.


Blogging off.


One Response to “Out of Alaska”

  1. Jonathan Says:

    Good news at last !

    Nice to know that Maggie is on her way to PAWS where she can be with other elephants, and in the right environment.

    Can’t help thinking what effect being on her own for 10 years has done though.