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Activists And City Councilman Want Billy The Elephant 'Freed' From The L.A. Zoo

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If you’re still mourning the January passing of "Blackfish"'s titular orca Tilikum, there’s a new cause-celebre animal whose name you should know—Billy the Elephant.

Billy is a Malaysian male elephant that has lived at the Los Angeles Zoo for most of his 30 years; his almost-lifelong captivity has garnered recent attention from animal rights advocates at Voice for the Animals, who claim that a life of confinement at the Zoo has "caused Billy to adopt unnatural, unhealthy behaviors" like swaying and repetitive head-bobbing.

With the support of VFTA, City Councilmember Paul Koretz filed a motion Wednesday to remove Billy from the zoo, and into an animal sanctuary, reports CBS Los Angeles. Koretz, who represents Los Angeles County's 5th District and chairs the City Council's Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee, decried Billy's "isolating, restricted" living conditions at the L.A. Zoo in a Tuesday press conference, describing the zoo's collection of Billy's genetic material as "invasive" and "detrimental to his well-being." A Wednesday press release from the Councilmember's communications office described Billy's repetitive head-bobbing as a "stereotypic behavior" that is commonly seen in animals in captivity.

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Koretz's motion seeks to relocate Billy to one of the two wild animal sanctuaries in the U.S., The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee or Forever Wild Sanctuary in Phelan, CA. Additionally, the motion lobbies for the creation of an animal welfare oversight committee to advise the Mayor, the City Council, the Zoo and the Board of Zoo Commissioners on safety and health-related issues concerning zoo animals.

The L.A. Zoo hasn't buckled under public pressure to release Billy, instead releasing a series of tweets on Tuesday praising Billy's "state-of-the-art barn, with padded & heated floors" and his access to "constantly-filtered pools."

Still, Billy's champions are undeterred, with VFTA planning a "Free Billy" comedy fundraiser for May 6, to be hosted by Paul Scheer, and featuring comedians like Lily Tomlin, Casey Wilson, Craig Ferguson and Whitney Cummings. If local government intervention can't 'save' Billy, maybe comedy can.