12/21/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Peace Gnome to the Rescue

Who says donkeys and elephants don't mix?

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) -- a principled, stalwart defender of the downtrodden whom we around here affectionately refer to as the "Peace Gnome" -- is urging the L.A. City Council to free a captive elephant languishing in a county zoo.

The fiery former Democratic presidential candidate asked the city "to reject a measure that would expand the L.A. County Zoo's 'Pachyderm Forest,'" according to a statement issued by the lawmaker's office. "Instead of expanding the space, Kucinich called upon Council Members to release the lone captive elephant to sanctuary."

In 2006, the statement notes, the city approved a $40 million expansion to the habitat. "Two months later an elephant named Gita died, leaving just one elephant named Billy in captivity," continues the press release. "Billy has a rare habit of bobbing and swaying his head. ... [E]lephant expert Joyce Poole is quoted as saying, '...[H]aving observed elephants for many, many years... I have never seen head-bobbing and I have never seen swaying. This type of behavior is pathological. It is a result of being in a confined space.'"

In the letter to the City Council, Kucinich writes, "In the wild, Asian elephants can live 50 to 70 years, African elephants up to 80 years. It is a matter of record that fifteen elephants have died in the L.A. Zoo since 1974 before reaching 20 years of age. Cramped confinement of such majestic creatures is cruel and inhumane."

He closes, "All across America, zoos are reevaluating the practice of keeping elephants in small confinements. I humbly request that you consider the research I have presented and support today's motion which will ensure sanctuary conditions for the housing of elephants by the L.A. Zoo, and begin consideration of an alternative use of the new facility which can still be educationally rewarding for the public."

The complete press release is available at this link.