An Oregon Zoo Elephant Keeper Begged Metro Council Not to Euthanize Packy Days Before His Death

She calls Packy's death "untimely and unethical."

Packy, a bull asian elephant, on exhibit at the Oregon Zoo. © Oregon Zoo / photo by Michael Durham.

One day before Oregon Zoo director Don Moore internally announced the impending euthanization of Packy the elephant, an Oregon Zoo elephant keeper named Pam Starkey sent an email to members of the Metro Council urging them to reconsider their decision to euthanize the 54-year-old elephant.

Starkey has worked for the zoo for the past 10 years. In her email, sent Feb. 7, she wrote that staff had spoken out in meetings against Packy's euthanization and had been ignored. She called Packy's death "untimely and unethical."

Starkey's email was obtained by WW via a public records request. It's part of a series of internal communications between officials at the zoo and Metro, the regional government that oversees it.

The emails show an effort by zoo leaders to hone a unified message in the days before Feb. 9, when the zoo put Packy down. At the same time, the emails show a group of dissenting voices—with Starkey at the forefront—demanding the zoo reconsider its decision and let the public weigh in.

Last fall, zoo officials determined Packy was suffering from a drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis.

The Feb. 8 internal announcement from Oregon Zoo director Don Moore points to Packy's decline in health.

It reads:

There had been rumors swirling for weeks surrounding whether or not Packy would be euthanized. Emails show animal advocates from In Defense of Animals and Free the Oregon Zoo Elephants contacted zoo officials as early as mid-January, urging them not to euthanize the elephant.

In her Feb. 7 email, Starkey told Metro councilors Packy had "improved greatly."

She writes:

She also writes that other zoo staff have been proactive in offering extra precautions and care for Packy, which were rejected.

In an email response to Starkey on Feb. 8, Metro president Tom Hughes thanked the zookeeper for her perspective. He wrote:

He also wrote that the Metro Council would "stand with the zoo as it makes the very challenging decisions needed to fulfill its mission to inspire the community to respect animals and take action on behalf of the natural world."

In Moore's Feb. 8 email to Metro employees announcing the decision to euthanize Packy, he explains the decision to euthanize Packy when they did.

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