He had to prove that moving the elephant was the right thing to do
ANCHORAGE – It was a decision that shook up a community. Six years ago this month, the Alaska Zoo said goodbye to their African elephant Maggie, but it was not without a fight.
Pat Lampi was the keeper then and was in the middle of it all.
“The back and forth bickering that went on with both sides. I would like to kind of forget all that stuff,” Lampi said.
The fight was over moving Maggie. The African elephant came to the zoo as a baby in 1983. Maggie grew up with Annabelle, the zoo’s older elephant. When Annabelle died in 1997, Maggie was left alone.
“There were a lot of people that really wanted her to stay here,” he said. “I had to prove it was the right thing to do.”
Lampi believed Maggie was suffering and that without a companion, her world was too small. She spent most of the cold winter months in her concrete elephant house. Even a world class treadmill, built just for her to exercise on, wasn’t working.
“I have to say it was a really well-engineered piece of equipment, but Maggie really didn’t want anything to do with walking on a moving conveyor belt,” Lampi said.
Finally in November of 2007, Maggie got to ride on an even bigger piece of equipment.
The battle won, she was flown in a military cargo plane to an animal sanctuary in California.
Recently, Lampi got a chance to visit and was impressed.
“She looked great, a lot of good muscle tone, and watching her interact with the other elephants was great,” he said.
Finally, Maggie has room to roam.
“It’s as close as you are going to get in the United States for elephant heaven, in my opinion,” Lampi said.
He says Maggie is happier than ever. The community made the right decision and Maggie made the right move, Lampi said.