The co-founder and president of PAWS, Ed Stewart, said she has more than 20 acres to roam in and a large elephant barn with padded, heated floors.
At the Alaska Zoo, she had no green space. On a tour of the sanctuary in January, Stewart pointed out that Maggie was tossing dirt onto her back with her trunk -- a normal elephant behavior that she hadn't had much chance to do before. Her skin looked tan and healthy. She seemed happy and free. Maggie never swayed from side to side or waved her head up and down during the tour, which is a good thing. Stewart said both behaviors are bad habits that the elephants at PAWS learned before they were at the sanctuary because they were chained, confined to small spaces or both.
Too much of either behavior can cause arthritis and foot disease, which can eventually prove fatal. Overall, Maggie's health has improved a great deal. Stewart said Maggie has some long-term medical issues and injuries from events at the zoo. There are problems with the way she stands and holds her head, but she's much more mobile than she once was.
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Climbing hills is the best thing for her, Stewart said. At PAWS, she can climb up to 1, feet in elevation if she wants. Alaska Zoo Director Pat Lampi, who orchestrated Maggie's move to California, agreed that her current environment is far healthier. Maggie never spends any time with a chain around her ankle anymore. Stewart said the only time that could happen is for a major medical procedure, but otherwise she's footloose.
At the Alaska Zoo, Maggie would be chained for feedings and medical work, and when she became aggressive. No one ever uses a bullhook on Maggie anymore, either. A bullhook is a long rod with a spike on the end used by trainers to establish dominance over the animal. Lampi said this practice was stopped at the Alaska Zoo a few years before her departure, but is still common in some areas of the U. PAWS is not one of those places.
Instead they use positive reinforcement, which Lampi passionately supports. In California, Maggie gets to be social.
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She lives with two other African elephants -- LouLou and Mara. At 50 years old, LouLou is the second-oldest African elephant in the U.
She is Maggie's best friend. According to Stewart, at one point Maggie lived with five elephants. She got along just fine. She'll go up to the most dominant elephant and eat. Everyone cuts Maggie some slack.
She is protective of LouLou, who's timid. If anyone is trying to push LouLou, Maggie will stand in between. When Maggie lived with Annabelle at the Alaska Zoo, Lampi said, she was treated like more of a "subordinate.
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Shortly after her birth, Maggie's mother was killed in a government-ordered cull killing -- a population control technique to keep elephants from encroaching on human territory. There she lived as a companion to Annabelle until Annabelle's death in Maggie continued to live at the zoo for another decade, but her health and well-being deteriorated after Annabelle died. She fell ill with colic twice during her time at the zoo, Lampi said. She'd go down and wouldn't be able to get up without the help of zoo personnel and emergency responders.
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Eventually she was put in a giant sling, which would help them get Maggie on her feet if it happened again. When she'd go down, she'd drag herself around and leave open wounds all over her body. In , after extensive public outcry, the zoo decided to send Maggie to a better place.
But getting her there wouldn't be easy. When Maggie left Anchorage on Nov. Lampi said she had to be "well enough" to make the trip, but still had the wounds on her body. The day of Maggie's move was one of the longest days of both Stewart's and Lampi's lives. In a meeting at the zoo shortly before Maggie's departure on a C, Lampi and Stewart were told of a flight procedure neither of them had heard before.
They said the trip would be four hours and 18 minutes, so that is what I focused on. The flight went well. Maggie wasn't sedated.