[Picture of Maggie from PAWS]
A former Alaskan friend was visiting recently and started telling me about how Maggie was doing and so I asked her if she'd do a guest post. She agreed. So first I'm going to give some background on the decision the zoo made to send Maggie south. Then we can look at the results of the decision in Michele's guest post.
A May 2007 ADN article reported:
Thwaites and other board members have said Maggie is a dominating elephant that may not adjust well to living with other elephants or to a change in her lifestyle. "Maggie's not your typical elephant. She hasn't been used to this. You just don't know (what could happen to her)."
Thwaites said the board is asking experts, including some of the same ones consulted in 2004, for their advice...
The 2004 report was written by a five-member committee formed to advise the board on what to do with Maggie. In it, elephant experts from around the U.S. and Canada said Maggie would be better off elsewhere. The lone dissenter, Dr. Jim Oosterhuis of the San Diego Wild Animal Park, said the animal could stay in Alaska if she was provided proper exercise, softer flooring in her enclosure and more interaction with her handlers. The zoo has spent $900,000 to improve Maggie's living conditions, Thwaites said. It has not, however, met all of the goals, including the soft flooring, which is estimated to cost another $100,000, he said.
The Alaska Zoo's elephant committee, composed of zoo staff, a board member and others closely connected to the zoo, three years ago split on the question of moving Maggie
The committee was made up of the then-president of the board, Mike Barker; then-senior zoo staff members Tex Edwards and Pat Lampi; Maggie's local vet, Dr. Riley Wilson; and a founder of the zoo, John Seawell.*****************
Edwards and Seawell thought Maggie should stay in Anchorage. Barker and Lampi voted to send her to the North Carolina Zoological Park, which scored highest among several Outside zoos that had indicated an interest. Wilson, the fifth committee member, was undecided.
How Maggie the elephant is doing in her retirement at the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in Galt, California.
Maggie arrived at the PAWS ARK 2000 sanctuary on November 2, 2007 via a celebrated airlift commanded by the late Brig. Gen. Thomas L. Tinsley, commander of the 3rd Wing at Elmendorf Air Force Base. After arriving at Travis Air Base, Maggie, in her crate, was trucked to the 75-acre sanctuary. She walked unaided out of her crate into the African elephant barn and into her private sleeping stall, was given a bath, examined by vets, and plied with treats.
After exploring the African barn, she was led to the introductory yard where she met the four female African elephant residents, 71 (the leader), Mara, Lulu and Ruby. Maggie is very vocal and trumpets to them. She makes a honking sound when she is begging for treats (our Maggie loves to eat!).
Maggie remained separated from the others physically by a fence until the PAWS staff was sure that she was strong enough not to be knocked over by them. They could nuzzle and touch trunks from Day 1 and slept in the same barn in separate stalls. She never appeared frightened of the other elephants and roared to show her spunk. Maggie was kept close but separate from the others until February 13, 2008 [video of Maggie joining other elephants] when the staff was confident she was strong enough to hike up and down the hills, and then she was introduced into the full elephant pasture with the others. She seems to have particularly bonded with Ruby.
On August 17, 2008, PAWS celebrated Maggie’s 27th birthday with carrot cake and all her new California friends. She was not willing to share her cake with the other elephants and they had to be distracted with goody bags of their own!
There was so much interest in Maggie when she arrived that the PAWS webcam crashed from sheer volume of hits. It is currently down and in the process of being upgraded but check back periodically for new videos.
I, for one, am very grateful to the Board of the Alaska Zoo for allowing Maggie to be re-located to PAWS and to the sanctuary and Bob Barker for financial support. I think your readers will be happy to see how well she is doing.
PAWS posts regular updates on Maggie on their website under “News and Alerts”
Here are some nice videos of Maggie so you can see how she’s doing.