A COMPREHENSIVE ASSESSMENT OF BUNKA THE ELEPHANT AT THE YEREVAN ZOO IN ARMENIA EVIDENCED HIS PHYSICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL DETERIORATION
THE REPORT AUTHORS AND FRIENDS OF BUNKA RECOMMEND MOVING HIM TO A NATURAL ENVIRONMENT IN A SANCTUARY
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The Pro Elephant Network (PREN) consists of a significant international community of diverse individuals and organizations, comprising specific expertise, related to wild and captive African and Asian Elephants, including but not limited to the fields of science, health, conservation, welfare, economics, community leadership, social justice and the law.
Bunka is an Asian bull Elephant, he was born in captivity at the Tbilisi Zoo, in Georgia. His mother, Malka, was captured from the wild in 1997 in Laos and arrived at the Tbilisi Zoo as a calf in 2000. Malka gave birth to Bunka when she was only ten years old. Bunka’s father, Bacho, of unknown origin arrived at the Tbilisi Zoo in 1999, where he died prematurely in 2009. Malka was separated from Bunka in 2014 when he was sent to the Yerevan Zoo. Elephants have strong social bonds and suffer tremendously when separated from family members.
PREN wrote a letter of concern to the Administrator of the Yerevan Zoo on the 21st of September 2021 after it was alerted about Bunka the Elephant’s solitary life in the zoo. PREN members requested access to Bunka in order for experts to assess and establish his health and well-being and offered assistance to the zoo administration.
The Friends of Bunka organisation, a member of PREN, has subsequently attracted significant global support for Bunka, this includes a petition signed by 78,000 conservationists and concerned members of the public, who are calling for his safe release from captivity.
The undersigned members of PREN are grateful that Mark Stratton and Tina Papadopoulou, from the Friends of Bunka organisation and a team of Elephant specialists, comprising Dr Marion Garaï, Ingo Schmidinger, Brett Mitchell and Tenisha Roos, were granted access to Bunka in order to conduct a comprehensive, physical and behavioural assessment of him at the Zoo in November 2022.
The results of this expert assessment have been published in a well-referenced Report which includes the following important concerning information:
- Concern for life-threatening physical well-being, in particular, Bunka’s feet which indicate the presence of an abscess and cracked nails;
- Concern that Bunka is malnourished;
- Bunka’s eyes are visibly inflamed which is an indication of poor health and below-standard living conditions;
- Bunka exhibits extremely dry skin;
- Abrasions on his tusk which could be an indication of self-harm;
- Concern for the abnormal behavioural indications for example stereotyping, his repetitive behaviours such as walking in circles, the exhibition of pathological boredom and depression.
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