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Published on Feb 25, 2009
Billy is a 24 year old male Asian elephant caught in the wild and forcibly taken from his native home of Malaysia, as part of a trade between the L.A. Zoo and the Malaysian Game Department in 1989. Billy lives on approximately one-quarter acre at L.A. Zoo. In the wild, elephants can walk 30 miles in a day. There are roughly 640 acres in one mile. With no other elephants near him, Billy lives an unnatural, solitary life at the Zoo. While male elephants are often kept separate from other elephants in zoos, in the wild males can display social connections, residing in bachelor herds or frequenting areas with female elephants, sometimes moving from family to family. In India, younger bulls join with older bulls to crop raid. For many years Billy has been displaying stereotypic behavior in the form of repetitive head bobbing that goes on for extended periods of time. Stereotypic behavior is often viewed as an indicator of poor welfare, caused by factors such as restriction of movement, size of enclosure, social isolation, and lack of complexity in the physical environment. Billy has experienced all of these factors at the L.A. Zoo. In fact, Billy was routinely chained each night, likely from the time of his arrival at the L.A. Zoo in 1989 until 1994, for approximately 12 to 14 hours each night. It was during this period that a keeper reportedly physically abused Billy by using electric shock on him. Experts state that stereotypic behavior can lead to foot problems such as nail cracks (which Billy already has), and abscesses and abrasions to the sole of the foot. Foot-related problems are one of the leading causes of euthanasia in captive elephants in the United States.