LOS ANGELES -- Animal expert and television host Jack Hanna threw his support Monday behind the Los Angeles Zoo's controversial Pachyderm Forest after touring the exhibit, which is still under construction.
Hanna, who hosts "Jack Hanna's Into the Wild" and has appeared on "Good Morning America" and "The Late Show with David Letterman," sent a letter to the Los Angeles City Council, urging members to move forward with the exhibit, according to the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association.
The council voted 13-2 last month to stop construction on the $42 million exhibit until at least the end of January.
Councilman Tony Cardenas has led the fight shut down the elephant exhibit and move the zoo's lone elephant, Billy, to a sanctuary. Cardenas has voiced concerns that elephants need room to walk and typically suffer debilitating foot problems inside zoos.
Hanna said in his letter that zoo officials are already providing Billy with the best care possible.
"What I did find was a project taking shape that will set a new standard for the care of elephants at zoos, providing a home that will be even larger than what Asian elephants enjoy at the San Diego Wild Animal Park," Hanna wrote.
"Not only will Billy and any future residents have a huge amount of room in which to roam, they will continue to enjoy 24-hour monitoring, state-of-the-art medical care, love, nurturing and a level of attention that sanctuaries cannot provide," according to Hanna's letter, which was disseminated to the media by GLAZA.
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The council's Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee has until Jan. 24 to determine the fiscal implications of a commitment made by GLAZA to pay the interest on one set of funds used to build the exhibit. That commitment would cost $1.2 million a year for 20 years, and relieve the city of the obligation to pay back those funds.
The Pachyderm Forest is designed to house up to five adult Asian elephants and three of their offspring, with more than 3 1/2 acres for the elephants to roam around, plus two pools and a waterfall on the six-acre site.