OPINION | Barry Richard: ‘Friends of Emily & Ruth’ Well Intentioned, but Misguided
The "Friends of Emily and Ruth" have been trying for years to have New Bedford's most senior and only pachyderms retired to a gated community in Tennessee and are now seeking the court's help to do so.
I believe that "Friends" is well intentioned and the group believes that it is doing what is best for the elephants. I think they mean well, but are wrong.
Ruth is now about 60 years old and Emily is 54. For decades these great, grey ladies have resided at the Buttonwood Park Zoo. Almost since their arrival "Friends" has sought to have them transferred to The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee. The life expectancy of Asian Elephants in the wild is about 70 years old. In captivity they generally live much shorter lives, on average about 45 years. Given the ages of Emily and Ruth, I would suggest that they are being treated well and are in good health.
While no expert in elephantology, if there is such a thing, I have been told by those who are experts that such a radical change of venue could be dangerous and upsetting for our gals. I am also told that the process of transporting them to Tennessee by truck could be quite harmful. Elephants are clannish and it is questionable whether Emily and Ruth would be welcomed by other elephants at a sanctuary, or if they would be any better off there than they are here.
Whether or not it was a mistake to pen Emily and Ruth in New Bedford in the first place is certainly a valid discussion to have, but at this point they are here and have been for most of their lives. Based upon what I have been told it would be a mistake and harmful to move them away from the only lives they have ever known.
The courts are being asked to decide whether the city is violating Emily and Ruth's rights under the Endangers Species Act. Should the courts rule in favor of "Friends," Emily and Ruth could be taken from the city and placed in a sanctuary far away.
I believe that Emily and Ruth should be allowed to live out their lives where they have been for so many years and that moving them could be fatal.
What say you?
Editor's Note: Barry Richard is the afternoon host on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from Noon-3pm. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.