Letter to the Editor – 11/6/13

Captive elephants

This is in response to Bob Jones’ column concerning health problems of zoo elephants. Most of Mr. Jones’ comments are correct, though quoting from a totally biased and negative article from the Seattle Times may not have been his best approach.

Looking at the overall status of elephants, however, an alternate title to the column may have just as well been “Health Problems of Wild Elephants.” In recent weeks, more than 100 elephants have died in Zimbabwe as the result of poachers lacing a pool of water with cyanide. That, of course, does not count all the other animals that died from consuming water from the same pool. A record amount of ivory recently has been confiscated in the Philippines and 5 tons are due to be destroyed. Another 6 tons were confiscated last week; another 1.8 tons were confiscated in Singapore. That is the greatest amount from over a decade. On average, poachers kill an elephant every 15 minutes.

Since adult elephants are the prime targets for poachers, one wonders what happens to the juveniles and infants that become orphans. Unfortunately, poaching is not the sole concern. Entire families of elephants were on the verge of being shot in Swaziland because human encroachment had reduced their available living space. It was a controversial move, but several zoos in the U.S. came to the rescue. This was managed despite a highly vocal group of people who believe that elephants are better off dead rather than in zoos. It is obvious that elephants in the wild hardly have an idyllic existence and, unless positive actions are taken, they will eventually become extinct.

Mr. Jones correctly states that zoos need to become more active conservators of the species. The recent scientific study he cites has provided valuable information on how to maintain “happy” and healthy elephants in captivity. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), of which the Honolulu Zoo is an accredited member, has established rigorous standards to meet those goals. Mr. Jones mentions that such actions are being taken throughout AZA.

Substandard facilities are being eliminated. Things such as foot problems, arthritis and stereotypic behavior are being corrected successfully.

I find it ironic that, in his same article, Mr. Jones questions whether UH should continue to be in Division I sports. The same question could be raised at our zoo. At this time, Mari and Vaigai are happy and healthy residents. They have a modern, up-to-date enclosure and they should be here for years to come. But learning more about these magnificent creatures is a never-ending process. As standards are raised (and they will be), things could change dramatically. If the zoo cannot meet those standards, it may have to consider upgrading the facility or moving them out. Many zoos are faced with the same challenges. Elephants are not inexpensive. AZA has established a large facility in Florida called The National Elephant Center (TNEC). It is, in effect, a home for captive elephants, and it is being prepared to receive animals that zoos cannot properly maintain.

I have a personal interest in saving elephants since I worked closely with them for many years. I have never ceased to be totally amazed at their intelligence and social nature. I firmly believe that showing live representatives to visitors establishes a connection that may just help them survive. How on earth could we do nothing and justify their disappearance? I, for one, sincerely hope that the day never comes where the only elephant we see is a stuffed specimen in a natural history museum.

Ken Redman, retired director,
Honolulu Zoo

Forgive them

Regarding the Hawaii Christian Coalition and other religious opponents of same-sex marriage, I have to quote Jesus as he was on the cross, speaking of those who wanted him crucified: “Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do.”

May their sins of oppression and discrimination be forgiven.

Alan Lee

Simplistic math

As close as one can tell regarding the simplistic Susan Page analogy about debt, the best tea party/Ted Cruz solution for the over-spending young man was that he go to his credit card company and insist that he need not pay for the items he has purchased.

As a backup he could “negotiate” and only pay for certain items, then howl if the credit card folks refused to negotiate. One-hundred-forty-four House GOPers and zero Dems saw the wisdom of this “solution,” which would have forever ruined the young man’s credit.

Of course, a better analogy would be multiple mortgages plus debt instruments mostly held by Americans (not Chinese), with the major debt factor being the George W. Bush tax cut for wealthy (at last ended this year) which “trickled up” a large amount of wealth to the top 1 percent while greatly increasing debt and deficit.

It is not surprising, given Ms. Page and her husband’s agenda of vilifying Obama, that the effects of W’s tax cut or the Iraq war were not mentioned.

David Bailey

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