11TH FEBRUARY 2020
OPEN LETTER ADDRESSED TO:
Mr. Michael Daly
Director, The Zoological Society of Ireland Phoenix Park, Dublin 8 Ireland
Mr. Leo Oosterweghel Director, Dublin Zoo Dublin Zoo,
Phoenix Park Dublin 8 Ireland D08 AC98 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hon Richard Bruton
Minister of Climate Action and Environment 29-31 Adelaide Rd
Dublin D02 X285 email@example.com
The Hon Sussan Ley MP Minister for the Environment PO Box 6022 House of Representatives Parliament House Canberra ACT 2600 firstname.lastname@example.org
The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) c/o Chief Executive Dr Madelon Willemsen Madelon.Willemsen@biaza.org.uk c/o the Chair of the Elephants Welfare Group c/o the Senior Manager Animal Care and Conservation
Nicky Needham Nicky.Needham@biaza.org.uk
The Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA) c/o President Mr Al Mucci P.O. Box 538 Mosman NSW 2088 Australia email@example.com
Honourable Ministers and Directors,
Translocation of two Elephant Male Calves from Dublin to Sydney
Together, as the Pro Elephant Network, composed of forty research scientists, NGOs, academics, and elephant professionals, we are writing to you concerning the welfare of two bull elephant calves who may be transferred from the Dublin Zoo to the Sydney Zoo in Australia.
We observe that the Dublin Zoo has been focusing on breeding elephants. We note that this repeated breeding has resulted in the serious dilemma facing zoos generally: males are produced that are often surplus to the genetic requirements of any long-term breeding programme. Furthermore, zoos are not equipped either to provide for the natural development of bulls or to guarantee their welfare across their entire life spans. Elephants in zoos are generally deprived of their basic biological needs, compared to their wild counterparts, but bull elephants lead particularly impoverished lives.
We believe that the elephants proposed to be sent to Australia are still youngsters of around six years in age, and they should be guaranteed the opportunity to mature into socially well-adjusted adults.
The BIAZA elephant management guidelines, recommended that “Young animals should be kept within their family group for several years and should not be transferred” . These young bulls will not be allowed this opportunity at the Sydney Zoo as they will be denied the company of other elephants of appropriate age and social experience.
In the wild, elephants are long-lived, social, and intelligent animals who live in complex societies with extensive social networks. Young elephants are highly dependent on their mothers and other family members for nurturing and for learning necessary social and behavioural skills.
Males leave their natal family at 12 to 15 years old and join with other related and unrelated males in bull groups, while females remain with family members for life. Although bulls may spend much time in their separate male society, they often join with females, including return visits with their natal group. Any disruption to the elephants’ social bonds is psychologically traumatic for adults and calves alike.
We understand that the Sydney Zoo is a new, privately owned facility 38km to the west of the Sydney central business district. The total area of the zoo is only 16.5ha and materials to hand show the zoo is in an exposed site with very little ground cover, in a location subject to frequent extremely high temperatures in summer (up to 47C). These conditions are not suitable for elephants, particularly not Asian elephants which live in the forest.
The Sydney Zoo recently acquired a female elephant, Saigon, who is around 63 years of age, and suffers from arthritis and other health issues and might be aggressive towards the two calves. Saigon has spent all of her life, from the age of 3-5 years, with the same circus family. She has never had an opportunity to enjoy natural elephant life. The zoo claims that it is seeking the company of other elephants for Saigon in her final years. This justification shows little understanding either of elephant behaviour or husbandry best practice.
Two young bull elephants, of limited social experience themselves, are most unlikely to provide supportive company for Saigon. Indeed, experience in zoos around the world shows young bull elephants are difficult to manage and particularly ill-suited to captive conditions, which prevent them from developing the extended social relationships and experience seen in wild elephant families and groups. Zoo bulls frequently become very aggressive, particularly during unnaturally extended periods of musth. They also display stereotypical behaviours and a range of captivity- induced health conditions resulting from lack of stimulation and exercise in insufficiently spacious and challenging environments.
We are concerned about the significant welfare problem of the long-distance transport of the young males. Furthermore, sending two young bull elephants from Dublin Zoo to Sydney is likely to put them at great risk of suffering life-long physical and psychological health issues. It is also highly likely that they would pose such a threat to Saigon that they could not be placed with her. Accordingly, we ask you to reconsider any decision to move these elephants from Ireland to Australia.
We respectfully urge you to seek a long-term solution to the problem of elephant suffering in zoos. This should involve ceasing to breed elephants that can have no prospect of anything approaching the natural social life seen in the wild environments to which they are adapted.
Breeding programmes will inevitably produce more “surplus” male elephants which will continue to pose management problems and reckless transfers such as the one currently proposed.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. If you have any questions or if there is any additional information we can provide or action we can assist with, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Dr Marion Garai
Elephant Specialist Advisory Group
On behalf of PREN and the following members of PREN
- Suparna Baksi-Ganguly President and Co-Founder, Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Bangalore India
- Dr Brett Bard Veterinarian, South Africa
- Dr Lucy Bates Independent Researcher
- Dr Jessica Bell Rizzolo Postdoctoral Researcher, the Conservation Criminology Lab, Dep of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University, USA
- Dr Gay Bradshaw Director, emulous Centre for Nonviolence USA
- Carol Buckley Director, Elephant Aid International
- Lenin Chisaira Founder, Advocate 4 Earth – Green Law Connect, Zimbabwe
- Dr Betsy Coville Wildlife Veterinarian USA
- Catherine Doyle Director of Science Research and Advocacy, Performing Animal Welfare Society USA
- Michele Franko Senior Research Associate – Elephant Care and Wellbeing at the Kerulos Centre for Nonviolence USA
- Chief Stephen Fritz Traditional Leader, Members of the South Peninsula Customary Khoisan Council South Africa
- Dr Marion Garai Chairperson, Elephant Specialist Advisory Group and Trustee Elephant Reintegration Trust
- Johanna Hamburger Wildlife Attorney, Animal Welfare Institute USA
- Dr Ross Harvey Environment Economist
- Dr Michelle Henley Director, Elephants Alive, Elephant Specialist Advisory Group, South Africa
- Iris Ho Senior Wildlife Specialist, The Humane Society
- Alok Hissarwala Gupta Elephant Specialist, Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations
- Lynne James Committee Member, Mutare SPCA, Zimbabwe
- Dr Mark Jones Veterinarian, Born Free Foundation United Kingdom
- Dr Paula Kahumbu Chief Executive Officer Wildlife Direct Kenya
- Professor Mohan Kharel Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal
- Jim Karani Advocate, Lawyers for Animal Protection in Africa
- Dr Winnie Kiiru Founder, Conservation Kenya
- Rob Laidlaw Executive Director, Zoocheck Canada
- Kahindi Lekalhaile Africa Network for Animal Welfare, Kenya
- Dr Smaragda Law Director Ban Animal Trading, South Africa
- Giorgio Lombardi Warden Vogelgat Private Nature Reserve, M.S. Rhodes University, South Africa
- Linda Masudze Advocate 4 Earth, Zimbabwe
- Varda Mehrotra, Executive Director, Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations
- Brett Mitchell, Director, Elephant Reintegration Trust, South Africa
- Mary Morrison Advocate, Wildlife Direct, Kenya
- Michele Pickover, Director EMS Foundation
- Sharon Pincott Elephant Behavioural Specialist, ex-Hwange, Zimbabwe
- Dr Yolanda Pretorius, SA Wildlife College, Elephant Specialist Advisory Group and Elephant Reintegration Trust, South Africa
- Dr Jan Schmidt-Burbach, Veterinarian, Head of Wildlife Research and Animal Welfare, World Animal Protection International
- Dr DJ Schubert Wildlife Biologist, Animal Welfare Institute, USA
- Ed Stewart Director, The Performing Animal Welfare Society
- Antoinette Van de Water Director Bring the Elephant Home, Elephant Specialist Advisory Group, South Africa
- Prof Dan Wylie Rhodes University, South Africa
Image: Dublin Zoo – Irish Mirror
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