Elephant exhibit is endorsed

After a special meeting of the Los Angeles City Council’s Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee on Tuesday afternoon, the chairman, Tom LaBonge, said he would recommend that the full council vote to continue construction on the Los Angeles Zoo’s controversial elephant exhibit.

The City Council is scheduled to make a long-awaited decision today on whether to let the zoo complete the $42-million exhibit or halt construction permanently and take the zoo out of the elephant-keeping business.

“I appreciate the passion of those who feel the other way,” said LaBonge, the zoo’s most ardent supporter on the council. But he reasserted his belief that the zoo would build a world-class exhibit. And, he said, he was confident the zoo’s fundraising group would follow through on its offer, tendered last month, to put up millions more for the exhibit and ease the city’s financial obligation on the project.

Councilman Tony Cardenas, who has led the movement to abort the project, said at the committee meeting, “All too often people say the zoos of today are different from the zoos of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Quite frankly, things have gotten a little better, but there is still, by my research, a big issue with elephants in confined spaces.”