Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash and City Councilman Tom LaBonge were among the roughly 100 people who rallied outside City Hall on Monday in support of the LA Zoo's elephant exhibit project, which was temporarily halted due to concerns over funding and animal welfare.
Meanwhile, about a dozen animal rights advocates demonstrated in opposition to the Pachyderm Forest, and former "The Price is Right" host Bob Barker pledged $1.5 million Monday to move Billy -- the only elephant now at the zoo -- to the PAWS sanctuary in northern California.
The Los Angeles City Council voted 13-2 last month to temporarily stop work on the $42 million elephant exhibit. Construction crews have completed about one-third of the Pachyderm Forest, which is designed to house up to five Asian elephants and three of their offspring in a 3 1/2 acre area, plus two pools and a waterfall.
"My job is to sit there and oversee the workings of the zoo and make sure that the work they are doing is humane, that the facilities that they have are professional and that they are providing the best care in the world for our animals," said Zoo Commissioner Kimberly Marteau Emerson. "We want to see our Pachyderm Forest built. This project deserves a life. It will be among the best in the world."
The zoo supporters, who chanted "Save Asian elephants, save the Pachyderm Forest," were joined by LaBonge, who believes the city should move forward with the project.
"I think it's so important that we do this for Billy and for the other elephants in the future," LaBonge said, in reference to the lone elephant at the zoo.
Councilman Tony Cardenas, on the other hand, has led the fight to stop the project and move Billy to a sanctuary. Cardenas argues that elephants need room to walk and typically suffer debilitating foot problems inside zoos.
Cardenas' position is supported by the Humane Society and In Defense of Animals.
Catherine Doyle with In Defense of Animals said the city should stop spending millions of dollars on an exhibit that benefits one animal and, instead, work to provide better homes for giraffes, reptiles and the zoo's jaguar.
"We need to take care of the animals already living at the zoo and not waste space and money on a $42 million elephant exhibit that's still too small for elephants. These resources should be devoted to helping a larger number of animals," Doyle said.
The Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee will meet Tuesday afternoon to decide whether to permanently stop work on the exhibit. That recommendation will be voted on by the full council on Wednesday.