INDEPENDENT NEWS

Celebrity backs campaign to save wild elephants

Published: Mon 16 Jan 2006 04:19 PM
Star backs campaign to save wild elephants
Actor Jessica Napier today joined Greens MP Lee Rhiannon in calling on the NSW government to turn its $40 million rainforest enclosure at Taronga Zoo into a home for retired circus elephants rather than bring wild elephants from Thailand.
Ms Napier, who has starred in The Alice and McLeod's Daughters, said, "Taronga Zoo should use its newly built rainforest elephant enclosure to house Australia's old circus elephants.
"If Thai elephants are imported they will be taken out of their natural habitat and will have to be cruelly domesticated before they arrive in Australia," Ms Napier said.
Last year Greens MP Lee Rhiannon and representatives of animal welfare groups released video footage showing how Thai wild elephants are domesticated using extreme cruelty.
"Zoos can only accept domesticated elephants. To make baby elephants obedient they are put into cages for two to three days with their legs tied together. The baby elephants are then beaten with sticks around their legs and picks are stabbed into the extremely sensitive areas around their ears and head, Ms Rhiannon said.
"Community opposition has been growing to the importation of Thai elephants.
"After first planning to reintroduce elephant rides Taronga management later argued the elephants were needed for its breeding program.
"I believe the elephant importation plan is about increasing the number of visitors to Taronga and boosting revenue.
"The Greens strongly support elephant breeding programs but these are best conducted in their natural habitat.
"We have not been able to find any cases where zoo bred elephants are returned to the wild. The few baby elephants born in zoos are given to other zoos.
"Taronga management have admitted that no elephants bred in captivity will be returned to the wild.
"Minister Bob Debus is responsible for Taronga Zoo. I have called on him to back the Greens campaign for the $40 million rainforest enclosure to be used as a retirement home for circus elephants.
"This is a win-win for the government - they get elephants at Taronga and can assist the breeding of elephants in their native habitat," Ms Rhiannon said.

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