SHANKAR, PREN STATEMENT 2022

Read the full statement here:

PRO ELEPHANT NETWORK STATEMENT ON SHANKAR THE ELEPHANT HELD AT THE DELHI ZOO

  1. The Pro Elephant Network (PREN) consists of an international community of diverse individuals and organizations, comprising specific expertise, on wild and captive African and Asian Elephants, including the fields of science, health, conservation, welfare, economics, community leadership, social justice and the law. 1
  2. Members of PREN have decades of experience researching the negative behavioural effects that confinement in zoos has on Elephants.
  3. Elephant experts and scientists have shown that Elephants, particularly, are ill-suited to captivity and suffer tremendously if confined and denied movement, space, autonomy and freedom of choice.
  4. There is overwhelming evidence that zoos cannot adequately imitate wild habitats or provide the essential variety of food, social interaction and intellectual stimuli, despite efforts and money invested to improve the standards of Elephant enclosures.
  5. A recently published report 2 highlighted the negative effects of confinement and welfare impacts on Elephants.
  6. Elephants are highly cognitive, demonstrate empathy and self-recognition, and display concern for other distressed and dying Elephants. Their cultural learnings are passed through their generations. 3
  1. Elephants are highly sentient beings and require opportunities for individual autonomy and socialization. When these essential needs cannot be met, health deterioration and stereotypy generally reflect the welfare-compromised environment.
  2. Shankar is displaying stereotypic behaviour and this kind of behaviour is the most widely used welfare indicator for Elephants. 4
  3. Stereotypy, the invariant restrictive and purposeless repetition of motor patterns, 5
  4. seen in captive Elephants that are held in impoverished conditions. Exposure to psychological stress has dysfunctions, brain damage 6 and premature death. 7
  5. The suggestion of importing one or more African Elephants for Shankar is ill-conceived because the space an Elephant would need to thrive is about 1000 times larger than an average Zoo enclosure 8. Introducing more Elephants, whether females or males, will overcrowd a space that is already insufficient for one Elephant. 9
  6. Capturing or taking Elephants from the wild into captivity is not supported internationally. For example: 

The IUCN/African Elephant Specialist Group (AfESG) issued a statement in December 2003 stating “Believing there to be no direct benefit for in situ conservation of African Elephants, the African Elephant Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission does not endorse the removal of African elephants from the wild for any captive use.

 In a letter, dated 31 January 2022, to PREN from the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) Executive Office, the EAZA Elephant Taxon Advisory Group (TAG) and the EAZA Ex- situ Programme for African Elephant (EEP), stated that they at this stage “do not support importation of Elephants from the wild into the EAZA population. EAZA Members are bound to abide by this position of the EEP and TAG.

 In terms of South Africa’s Elephant Management Norms and Standards is it illegal to export any Elephants from South Africa to a captive facility?

In 2019 CITES parties, representing 75 percent of voting countries, decided to restrict trade in live Elephants from Zimbabwe and Botswana to in situ conservation programmes or secure areas in the wild within the species’ natural and historical range in Africa, with limited exceptions thus ending the export of Elephants from these countries to captive facilities outside of Africa.

13. Attempting to source Elephants from other zoos or circuses will be traumatic for all the Elephants involved. 10 Elephants remain bonded for life. 11 Elephants are extremely vulnerable to suffering the psychological long-term impacts and trauma of capture and separation and when they are removed from family members and their social networks they suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 12.

14. The social sphere of Elephants is very complex and difficult to replicate in a captive scenario.

15. The Youth for Animals initiative to free Shankar is fully supported by the Pro Elephant Network (PREN), the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations (FIAPO), Elephant Specialist Alliance International (ESAI) and World Animal Protection India. All these letters of support were included in the document that was delivered to the Prime Minister of India on the 16th of November 2021.

16. The Elsa Foundation, Voice for Asian Elephant Society, Blue Cross of India and a host of celebrities have publicly joined the campaign to free Shankar. The public petition to the Prime Minister of India – Shri Narender Modi; the Honourable Minister for the Environment, Forest and Climate – Shri Bhupender Yadav; the Director of National Zoological Park – Shri Dharam Deo Rai; and the Chairman of Animal Welfare Board of India – Dr O.P. Chaudhary, to free Shankar from the Delhi Zoo, has, in a short time, reached over two hundred thousand supporters.There are many examples of zoos around the world – for example, Argentina,13 Chile,14 Alaska15 and Pakistan16 -that have recently recognised that, despite their best efforts, they have been unable to meet the needs of their Elephants. They have decided to prioritise the welfare needs of Elephants and have agreed to translocate them to more suitable environments.

17.Aspinall Foundation in the United Kingdom, which supports the Youth for Wildlife legal application, has submitted a letter of commitment, with regard to the proposed translocation and rewilding of Shankar. Aspinall Foundation has suggested and agreed to fund an independent specialist veterinarian team to examine Shankar and based upon their recommendations that a suitable, natural sanctuary is located for Shankar, where he can be rehabilitated under the guidance of experts. Aspinall Foundation has also offered to fund and facilitate the entire translocation process for Shankar. Members of PREN support this offer.