International Protest Over Auckland Elephant Import

Published: Wed 8 Dec 2010 12:37 PM
8 December 2010
International Protest Over Auckland Elephant Import
Prominent international zoologists and some of the worlds most respected elephant experts are appealing to the Auckland Council to rethink plans of importing a herd of elephants to Auckland Zoo.
The former Auckland City Council has approved a $13 million proposal to bring a number of Asian elephants into New Zealand. WSPA and SAFE, two of New Zealand’s leading animal advocacy organisations, say plans to import the first three elephants is already underway. The groups say they welcome the support of the international community of elephant experts.
Over twenty distinguished animal behavourists or international animal advocates have written to the Auckland Council to express their concerns. These include: Will Travers of Born Free Foundation, Dr Joyce Poole of Elephant Voices and Dr Peter Stroud, a zoological consultant, along with representatives of Amboseli Trust for Elephants, RSPCA, Elephant Aid International, In Defense of Animals, International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Humane Society International.
“Leading biologist, Dr Joyce Poole, has spent nearly 30 years living amongst savanna elephants in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park studying their behaviour and methods of communication. Dr Poole’s has become a leading authority on elephant populations. Her objection alone should stand as sufficient weight for the Auckland Council to take this matter seriously. The fact we have the support of a further twenty experts is unprecedented and can not be dismissed,” says WSPA New Zealand manager Bridget Vercoe.
SAFE campaign director, Eliot Pryor, says the newly elected Auckland Council has an obligation to review the former councils decision to support this elephant import proposal in light of this new international testimony.
“Both WSPA and SAFE formally presented their concerns and objections to the former council in May 2009. The submission cited many studies, including that of the RSPCA and Humane Society International that demonstrated that captivity was highly detrimental to the welfare of elephants. It also dismissed arguments that Auckland Zoo would adequately contribute to an international elephant breeding or conservation programme. We are delighted that our concerns have been echoed by this team of experts,” says Mr Pryor.
Melbourne based, independent zoological consultant Peter Stroud has worked with many zoos to overcome problems associated with keeping elephants in captivity. He was disappointed to hear Auckland Zoo was planning to establish a breeding herd of elephants.
“No urban zoo can cater for the complex needs of elephants. Sound science tells us that elephants are social animals that spend their lives in and around families of closely related individuals, moving across vast areas. Family life cannot be created in a zoo and there is growing evidence that simply placing unrelated elephants together does not simulate natural social life,” said Dr Stroud. “Removing elephants from existing zoo programmes will neither assist the sustainability of zoo elephant populations nor assist the welfare of the elephants involved. Existing zoo populations of Asian elephants, internationally, are not self-sustaining because of a combination of insufficient genetic diversity and skewed age structure,” he says.
The letter has been sent to the councillors of Auckland Council as well as the Prime Minister, Minister of Local Government and Minister of Conservation.

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