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Photos from the LA Zoo 'Free Billy' Elephant Protest

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On Saturday morning, a group of animal activists took to the LA Zoo to let patrons know what the city is planning to do with their upcoming elephant exhibit and what the past has held for the elephants. The controversy over Billy, the sole elephant in the zoo, recently came back when City Councilmember Tony Cardenas--at the urging of activists--changed his position on an already under construction $42 million 6-acre pachyderm exhibit.

Cardenas suggested Los Angeles build a large elephant sanctuary, something the Friends of the LA Zoo say is a nice thought, but sanctuaries do not require the strict accreditation that zoos must abide by. TV animal expert Jack Hanna has sided with the zoo saying it sets "a new standard for the care of elephants at zoos." On the other side, experts say Billy has pathological problems and that he is in need of more space. Mainstream media outlets such as TIME and NPR have reported on a recent study--although disputed--on how zoos shorten the life expectancy of elephants.

The issue is coming back to the City Council this week and activists have planned numerous demonstrations leading up to that meeting. Zookeepers held their own press conference yesterday and said the new exhibit is cutting edge and that they would send Billy away if needed. "We'd urge that Billy be sent away right now if we believed it was best for Billy. It's not."