Actress Lily Tomlin says Jenny the elephant has worked 22 years for the Dallas Zoo and it's time for her to retire.
Tomlin visited the elephant last week. The actress has been in Dallas most of the week, working with Concerned Citizens for Jenny. The group wants the zoo's lone 32-year-old elephant sent to the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tenn., which has a large area where Jenny can roam on hundreds of acres and socialize with other elephants.
For 22 years, Jenny has lived at the Dallas Zoo, on about a quarter of an acre. Her pal, Keke, the zoo's other African elephant, died in May. Many people are concerned that Jenny is extremely lonely without her pal.
After reviewing Jenny's medical records they're convinced that the 10,000-pound elephant has had a traumatic life and is still not doing well.
They saw the elephant's broken tusk Friday and said it was the result of self-mutilation. Both added that Jenny is depressed, and is often drugged to keep her under control.
But Jenny looked anything but downtrodden Friday as she played with her handlers, raised her feet for inspection and sprayed water into the air.
Morin said that usually the elephant has abscesses on her feet and exhibits a swaying motion, which she said is a sign of extreme stress.
The zoo countered that elephants are known to sway whether in the wild or in captivity and that Jenny received treatment that healed her foot problems long ago.
Zoo officials say moving Jenny to an unfamiliar place with a different routine and new handlers would be more stressful than keeping her where she is.
"We're the best facility for her," said Gregg Hudson, the Dallas zoo's director. "We understand her and we've got a system set up that she's very comfortable with and there's really no reason to disrupt that."
Zoo officials have expedited plans for a larger elephant habitat that would give Jenny at least four acres to wander on. It is expected to open in spring 2010. They said they hope to add another elephant in the next 30 to 60 days.
The elephant controversy began earlier this year when Dallas Zoo officials announced plans to ship Jenny to a wildlife park in Mexico after her companion died in May. But they reconsidered after protests. Critics of the Mexico move favored the Tennessee refuge, the nation's largest natural-habitat refuge, where Jenny would share a 300-acre enclosure with three other African elephants.
Copyright 2008 The E.W. Scripps Co. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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