Should Maggie move?
She plays in the snow. She plays the harmonica. She snacks on hot-dog buns and hay. But is Alaska's only elephant happy? Maggie, a 22-year-old African elephant, has lived at the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage since 1983. And whether she is depressed because she is spending another dark and freezing winter in Alaska has been the subject of debate in the state. The zoo is facing growing demands that Maggie be moved to a warmer climate, where she could socialize with other elephants and get more outdoor exercise. But zoo officials say that Maggie has a history of not getting along with other elephants. Instead of moving her right away, they will expand her barn and build a treadmill for the 9,120-pounder. Maggie, who has already been trained to play the harmonica and paint in water-color with her trunk, will have to be trained to use the 20-foot-long treadmill. Animal-rights groups maintain that it is cruel to keep an elephant alone. "The fact that she is in solitary confinement as a social animal is unacceptable," says Nicole Meyer of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The zoo plans to keep Maggie in Anchorage for at least three years; then, they will evaluate whether the treadmill and the larger barn have improved her quality of life.