Tom Hughes Says Packy Will Not Leave Oregon Zoo

Metro President rejects calls from animal activists to send elephant to a sanctuary.

Metro President Tom Hughes has told animal-rights activists he's rejecting their demands to send 52-year-old Oregon Zoo elephant Packy to a sanctuary.

"I want to be clear on this point: we have no intention of moving Packy from the Oregon Zoo," Hughes wrote a trio of activists July 10.

Jon Gramstad, Barbara Spears and Courtney Scott met with Hughes on June 25, as part of a campaign trying to pressure Metro officials to get the Oregon Zoo out of the elephant business.

Their call comes in the midst of tumult at the zoo: Metro in May fired the zoo's director and top veterinarian, and seven primates have died in zoo care.

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reported this week that zoos across the country are abandoning their elephant exhibits.

But in his follow-up letter to activists, Hughes says Packy isn't going anywhere. The iconic bull, the first elephant ever born in an American zoo, remains in quarantine for tuberculosis.

"I do not think we will be calling for an independent medical evaluation of Packy's health," Hughes writes, "as I have faith that the professional staff at the zoo is providing excellent care for our elderly patriarch, given his age and the challenges of treating tuberculosis."

Hughes is more vague on whether the zoo will purchase 100 acres in Clackamas County for an elephant reserve.

WW has previously reported how the zoo changed its plans after voters approved a 2008 bond: Instead of sending its elephant herd to the off-site reserve, the zoo decided to more than double its elephant population in the next decade, and keep a second herd at the off-site reserve.

Hughes now says the zoo still wants to buy land, but has questions—"including how to site such a facility, the possible impact on natural resources and how to finance the ongoing maintenance costs of a remote facility."

Gramstad, who has pledged to to pour money into the 2016 Metro Council race, targeting seats where they can start zoo reform, says he's let down by Hughes' response.

"I am re-thinking my relationship with local government," Gramstad tells WW. "It's becoming difficult to make progress because I don't believe they are simply smart enough to know how to engage the public, be responsible, or just do the basics of governing. Very, very disappointed." 

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