On April 14, 1962, the first elephant born in the Western Hemisphere in 44 years created a frenzy of excitement and made headlines everywhere. He weighed in at 225 pounds and immediately captured the hearts of visitors from around the nation and the world.
His mother, Belle, was taken from the wild in Thailand, and his father, Thonglaw, was taken from the wild in Cambodia. At the young age of 8, Belle was bred and two years later the baby who would be named Packy took his first steps. The new baby elephant brought in scores of visitors, dramatically increasing ticket sales, along with the sales of Packy toys and trinkets.
Packy lived almost his entire life in a one-acre synthetic enclosure with compacted dirt outside and cement floors inside. He was trained with a bullhook and lived under the threat of its use for his entire life.
When Packy matured, he was first bred with his younger sisters. In all, he sired seven calves, six of whom are dead.
Over his 54 years at the Oregon Zoo, Packy experienced an abscess on his head from lying on concrete, a foot injury from repeatedly kicking a closed door, a scar that appears to be from a bullhook wound, being repeatedly restrained and bled for a drug study, being the object of repeated attempts to extract sperm for the Oregon Zoo's artificial insemination breeding program, foot disease, lameness, arthritis, and tuberculosis. He was given TB drugs for three years which caused him to lose a drastic amount of weight as well as made him ill.
In September of 2016, he was diagnosed with an active strain of TB. The Zoo realized Packy's TB was untreatable. He was taken off the drugs, resulting in an improvement in his appetite and wellbeing.
Packy was euthanized by the Zoo in the early morning of February 9, 2017. Despite Packy's improving health, despite Packy's own keepers' outspoken and public advocacy to save his life and modify the exhibit to offer him some degree of comfort, and despite efforts by FOZE to have him sent to sanctuary, the zoo chose to euthanize Packy.
The most important lesson from Packy's sad life and untimely death is that elephants do not belong in captivity. Elephants should not be bred to spend a lifetime in captivity. Elephants should not be imported from the wild to serve time in a zoo.
This conference is dedicated to Packy and in his honor we at Free the Oregon Zoo Elephants join with all of our allies around the world to end the breeding of zoo elephants, and to end the importing of elephants to zoos. FOZE stands firm in its pursuit of someday closing all elephant exhibits, and sending the remaining elephants to sanctuary.