Mr. Michael Daly
Director, the Zoological Society of Ireland Phoenix Park, Dublin 8
Dublin, Ireland

Mr. Leo Oosterweghel Director, Dublin Zoo Dublin Zoo,
Phoenix Park Dublin 8 Ireland DO8 AC98

c/o The Hon Richard Bruton
Minister of Climate Action and Environment 29-31 Adelaide Rd
Dublin D02 X285

c/o The Hon Sussan Ley MP Minister for the Environment PO Box 6022 House of Representatives Parliament House Canberra ACT 2600

c/o The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) c/o Chief Executive Dr Madelon Willemsen c/o the Chair of the Elephant Welfare Group c/o the Senior Manager Animal Care and Conservation

Nicky Needham

c/o The Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA) c/o President Mr Al Mucci PO Box 538 Mosman NSW 2088 Australia

Dear Mr. Oosterweghel:

Reply to your letter of the 13th of February 2020 – Elephant Male Calves from Dublin to Sydney

Thank you very much for your prompt response to our letter of 11 February and your openness to further dialogue.

PREN is a group of experts in the biology, behaviour, conservation and welfare of elephants, concerned for the well- being of elephants everywhere. Many of our members work directly with captive elephants.

In the spirit of your letter we would like to respectfully ask a number of questions about the proposed export of the two young bull elephants to Sydney Zoo. We would like to further understand the rationale and processes leading to this export, about which we have significant concerns.

  • Does Dublin Zoo feel any long-term responsibility for the stewardship of these bulls, or do you feel that your responsibility ends with the completion of the export? Have contingencies been considered, under which they might need to be relocated elsewhere in the future?
  • Would you explain how Sydney Zoo was chosen as the best recipient of these animals? The zoo opened to the public only a few weeks ago, is relatively small, and is privately operated. How was it decided that this zoo has sufficient experience, adequate facilities, and reliable financial security to provide for the welfare of elephants and other animals in the long-term?
  • Could you also please explain why the elephants are being moved at the relatively young age of 5 or 6 years old? Wild elephants would not leave their natal group at this age and would be able to experience a process of gradual social separation from their mothers, aunts and siblings, so imperative to their social learning and adjustment. When male elephants leave their families, they join a society of other, older males. We would like to understand why it is felt necessary to move the elephants now, and to a zoo with no other males. Is it the policy of Dublin Zoo to continue with such removals of male elephants, in the event of successful breeding in future? Is it acceptable that male elephant calves, produced at a ratio of at least 50% of captive births, will always be considered as “surplus” to requirements, making the continuation of such exports inevitable?
  • Can you explain how the decision that the move to Sydney is in the “best interest of the elephants” and “will enable the elephants to thrive and become socially well-adjusted adults”, when for the foreseeable future it is likely they will not enjoy the company of any other elephants, let alone their natal group? At best they may develop some relationship with the 63+ year old female Saigon, but this outcome or its longevity cannot be assured and, given her age and poor health, it most unlikely. In any case, such a grouping does not represent any naturally observed social situation.
  • We note that Sydney has recently been subject to excessive heat, smoke pollution from bush fires and flooding rains, and that a number of zoos elsewhere in Australia were affected adversely. The intensity and extent of these events are directly linked to climate change; this is not a matter of conjecture, it is the scientific consensus. Australia is frequently described as being on the “front-line” of climate change and will experience weather conditions of growing severity in coming years. Was this heightened risk considered in the decision to move the young elephants to Australia? What steps will be taken to protect the elephants from progressively more extreme conditions as they develop?
  • It would seem that there are many zoos in Europe and North America that might be more experienced and better prepared to hold additional bull elephants, especially given the shortage of breeding bulls. Some zoos are dedicated as “bulls only” facilities. It would also seem that the two young bulls would have a greater chance of maturing appropriately in the presence of other young and older elephants in a zoo with greater experience and more extensive holding areas. This is particularly important as young bull elephants require the leadership of older ones, so as not to become socially disorientated and unruly. Which other zoos were considered as homes for these two elephants?
  • We have seen that you consulted Mr. Alan Roocroft in planning to move the elephants. You describe him as, “the world’s leading expert on elephants”, but Mr. Roocroft is not an elephant biologist and has not studied elephants in the wild. Were any biologists familiar with the natural behaviour and needs of elephants consulted and, if not, why not? Did Mr. Roocroft produce a report for Dublin Zoo and if so, is it a public document that can be viewed?We do appreciate your willingness to engage with us on these matters, as we remain concerned about the future of these two young bulls and the imperatives that have driven the process of decision making about their future. We look forward to your response to the points we have raised in this letter, in the spirit of ongoing discussion.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Marion Garai
Elephant Specialist Advisory Group

  1. Suparna Baksi-Ganguly President and Co-Founder, Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre, Bangalore, India
  2. Dr Brett Bard Veterinarian, South Africa
  3. Dr Lucy Bates Independent Researcher
  4. Dr Jessica Bell Rizzolo Postdoctoral Researcher, The Conservation Criminology Lab, Dep Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University
  5. Carol Buckley Director, Elephant Aid International
  6. Dr Gay Bradshaw Director, Kerulos Centre for Nonviolence, USA
  7. Lenin Chisaira Founder, Advocates 4 Earth – Green Law Connect, Zimbabwe
  8. Dr Betsy Coville Wildlife Veterinarian USA
  9. Catherine Doyle Director of Science Research and Advocacy, Performing Animal Welfare Society USA
  10. Audrey Delsink Wildlife Director, Elephant Ecologist, the Humane Society International (Africa)
  11. Anna Centura Future 4 Wildlife, Europe
  12. Michele Franco Senior Research Associate – Elephant Care and Wellbeing at the Kerulos Centre for Nonviolence USA
  13. Chief Stephen Fritz Traditional Leaser, Members of the South Peninsula Customary Khoisan Council, South Africa
  14. Johanna Hamburger Wildlife Attorney, Animal Welfare Institute USA
  15. Dr Ross Harvey Environmental Economist
  16. Iris Ho Senior Wildlife Specialist, the Humane Society International
  17. Alok Hissarwala Gupta Elephant Specialist, Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations
  18. Lynne James Committee Member, Mutara SPCA, Zimbabwe
  19. Dr Mark Jones Veterinarian, Born Free Foundation, UK
  20. Dr Paula Kahumbu Chief Executive Officer Wildlife Direct
  21. Professor Mohan Kharel Tribhuvan University Kathmandu, Nepal
  22. Jim Karani Advocate, Lawyers for Animal Protection in Africa
  23. Dr Winnie Kiiru Founder Conservation Kenya
  24. Rob Laidlaw Executive Director Zoocheck Canada
  25. Kahindi Lekalhaile Africa Network for Animal Welfare, Kenya
  26. Dr Smaragda Louw Director, Ban Animal Trading, South Africa
  27. Giorgio Lombardi Warden Vogelgat Private Nature Reserve, M.S. Rhodes University, South Africa
  28. Linda Masudze Advocate 4 Earth, Zimbabwe
  29. Varda Mehrotra Executive Director, Federation of Indian Protection Organisations
  30. Brett Mitchell Director, Elephant Reintegration Trust, South Africa
  31. Mary Morrison Advocate WildlifeDirect, Kenya
  32. Michele Pickover Director EMS Foundation, South Africa
  33. Sharon Pincott Elephant Behavioural Specialist, ex-Hwange, Zimbabwe
  34. Dr Yolanda Pretorius SA Wildlife College, Elephant Specialist Advisory Group, Trustee Elephant Reintegration Trust
  35. Dr Jan Schmidt-Burbach Veterinarian, Head of Wildlife Research and Animal Welfare, World Animal Protection International
  36. Dr DJ Schubert Wildlife Biolgist, Animal Welfare Institute, USA
  37. Stefania Falcon Future 4 Wildlife, South Africa
  38. Ed Stewart Director, The Performing Animal Welfare Society
  39. Antoinette Van de Water Director Bring the Elephants Home, Elephant Specialist Advisory Group, South Africa
  40. Professor Dan Wylie Rhodes University, South Africa

Image: Dublin Zoo – Irish Times

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