Animal rights group says elephant is lonely, needs company

LAS VEGAS - If Gildah the elephant is lonely, she's not saying. Despite the charmed life she lives, an animal rights group says Gildah is sad and needs to be around her own kind.

''Solitary confinement is what we give to the worst criminals in our society,'' said Jane Garrison, an elephant specialist with the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. ''It is extremely cruel to keep elephants isolated from other elephants.''

Gildah (pronounced Jilda) seems to have a pretty good life. The 52-year-old Thai elephant lives at The Mirage hotel-casino in the Secret Garden of Siegfried & Roy, a habitat of white lions, tigers and dolphins. Gildah munches on watermelons and bananas, hangs out with her friend Merlin, a turkey, and takes a bath in her pond if the heat gets to her.

At night, it's show time as Gildah performs with illusionists Siegfried & Roy. She's been with them since the show opened in 1990.

In the mornings, her handler, Chris Logan, says Gildah loves to watch cartoons and the Discovery Channel. His house is next to Gildah's habitat and Gildah peaks in Logan's window to watch television.

She may seem content, but PETA says Gildah is lonely. They want her retired to an elephant sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tenn., where she can make friends with other elephants.

Garrison said elephants are herd animals and even though Gildah is not being physically mistreated, her life must be torture. ''They need the companionship,'' she said.

The Mirage contends PETA is using Gildah as a fund-raising ploy.

''PETA is a very highly organized money machine. They create issues, go out and raise money on those issues,'' said Alan Feldman, spokesman for the resort.

PETA claims they have received a handful of letters from people complaining that Gildah is alone, but Feldman questions whether the letters exist.

''The love and care of Gildah has been beyond reproach the entire time,'' he said.

Gildah herself is keeping mum on the subject. On Thursday, she seemed to enjoy using her snout to throw dirt and grass on her back in an effort to cool off.

''She doesn't look lonely,'' tourist Robert Taylor of Troy, Mich., said as Logan popped bananas into Gildah's mouth. ''But I'm sure everybody needs some company.''


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