COMPREHENSIVE ELEPHANT EXPERT ASSESSMENT OF BUNKA AT THE YEREVAN ZOO CARRIED OUT

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  

Read the Full Letter:

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: 

  1. Concern for life-threatening physical well-being, in particular, Bunka’s feet which indicate the presence of an abscess and cracked nails;  
  2. Concern that Bunka is malnourished; 
  3. Bunka’s eyes are visibly inflamed which is an indication of poor health and below-standard living conditions;  
  4. Bunka exhibits extremely dry skin;  
  5. Abrasions on his tusk which could be an indication of self-harm;
  6. Concern for the abnormal behavioural indications for example stereotyping, his repetitive behaviours such as walking in circles, the exhibition of pathological boredom and depression. 

Pro Elephant Network 2023. All Rights Reserved.

COMPREHENSIVE EXPERT BEHAVIOURAL AND MEDICAL ASSESSMENTS OF CHARLIE, THE SOLITARY ELEPHANT AT THE PRETORIA ZOO DELIVERED TO MINISTER BARBARA CREECY

A STATEMENT FROM THE PRO ELEPHANT NETWORK

The Members of the Pro Elephant Network (PREN) and the EMS Foundation have submitted Expert Assessment Reports of Charlie, the solitary elephant at the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria, to the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy.

Charlie, is an African male elephant, who was born in Hwange National Park in 1982, was captured and exported to the Brian Boswell Circus in South Africa in 1984 and was sent to the National Zoological Gardens on the 30th of July 2001. 

The EMS Foundation and members of PREN have been in discussions with Minister Barbara Creecy since the 16th of December 2020, negotiating the very best retirement options for Charlie, based upon the recommendations of the most experienced elephant experts in the world. 

Charlie’s expert psychological and medical rehabilitation, his relocation to, and his reintegration into a protected natural environment would arrive at no cost to the South African Biodiversity Institute, the South African government, or the South African taxpayer. 

Charlie’s Behavioural Assessment Report was co-authored by Dr Marion Garai, Dr Keith Lindsay, Dr Toni Frohoff and Dr Joyce Poole. 

  • Dr Marion Garai is an Ethologist, a member of the IUCN SCC, chairperson of the South African Elephant Specialist Advisory Group  trustee of the Elephant Reintegration Trust.   
  • Dr Keith Lindsay is a Conservation Biologist and Environmental Consultant with over 40 years of professional experience, he is the author of the Solitary Elephants in Japan Report and co-author with Dr Rob Atkinson of a Report endorsed by 25 leading specialists which explains why expansive, diverse habitats are critical to keeping captive elephants physically and psychologically healthy.
  • Dr Toni Frohoff is an Ethologist and Behavioural Biologist with thirty years of experience.  Dr Frohoff is the Founder and the Science Director for TerraMar Research.
  • Dr Joyce Poole is an Elephant Behaviour Specialist, the Co-Founder and Co-Director of ElephantVoices. Dr Poole has studied the social behavior and communication of elephants for over forty years. Dr Poole has dedicated her life to the conservation of elephants and their welfare.  

Charlie’s Medical Assessment Report was co-authored by Professor Dr Thomas Hildebrandt, Dr Frank Goeritz Dr Amir Khalil and Dr Mariana Ivanova, and under the supervision of South African veterinarian Dr Brett Bard.

This specialized, expert medical team were responsible for the rehabilitation, relocation, and initial phases of integration of Kaavan, once called the loneliest elephant in world. This team have also recently treated the four African elephants in the Karachi Zoo and Safari Parks who conducting lifesaving, unique and complicated surgeries from which all four elephants have recovered. Dr Brett Bard is a South African veterinarian, practicing in the Karoo in the Western Cape.

The Members of PREN and the EMS Foundation are looking forward to receiving Minister Creecy’s earliest response and engaging on this matter further with her so that the recommendations made by the experts can be fulfilled in the best interests of Charlie. 

We would like to take this opportunity to warmly and gratefully thank all the experts who have so generously participated in these important assessment processes. 

Image Credit: Charlie at the Pretoria Zoo, South Africa, 01.03.2023

©The Pro Elephant Network 2023. All Rights Reserved.

SUBMISSION FOR THE INCLUSION OF ELEPHANT IN THE TRIPADVISOR ANIMAL WELFARE POLICY

“We are cognisant of the fact that TripAdvisor implemented an Animal Welfare Policy in 2016 which was updated in 2018. Included in this policy was a guideline not to sell tickets for shows and performances in which animals are forced to perform demeaning tricks or unnatural behaviours.”

In 2019 TripAdvisor consulted with a number of scientists, including ethologist, behavioural biologist and PREN member Dr Toni Frohoff, with the objective to expand the TripAdvisor Animal Welfare Policy to end commercial relationships with facilities that breed or import captive whales and dolphins.

The government of the United Kingdom is presently reviewing the Animals Abroad Bill. The Bill has passed a second reading and is currently undergoing a detailed review. If the Bill passes, the sale and advertisement of activities which include low standards of welfare for animals will be prohibited. The Bill is enjoying widespread and high-profile public support. A petition by the Save the Asian Elephant organisation, also a member of PREN, was supported by 1.1 million signatures.

Members of PREN believe that this is an excellent opportunity for TripAdvisor to update their Animal Welfare Policy by removing activities which provide for low standards of welfare for animals and in doing so comply with the most up-to-date international legislation.

Members of PREN who have supported this submission have highlighted the cruel treatment of Elephants in Kerala.

READ THE FULL SUBMISSION:

PREN members have recommended in their submission that TripAdvisor should not advertise facilities that are exploiting elephants in Kerala but should instead, focus on promoting places where elephants can be viewed in their natural environment, in large parks, reserves and accredited elephant sanctuaries.

PREN members acknowledge the important role that TripAdvisor can play in promoting positive change, by setting higher standards in tourism and by persuading countries with inadequate animal welfare policies to introduce regulations for the protection and compassionate treatment of those animals involved in the tourism sector.

PREN 2023. All Rights Reserved.

TSWALE

ELEPHANT TSWALE – OPEN LETTER OF CONCERN

On Friday 17th of February 2023, Members of the Pro Elephant Network sent an urgent open letter the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency and Members of the Executive Council about an elephant called Tswale who is currently being utilised for human interactions on a piece of land which is being advertised to be auctioned on the 23rd February 2023.

This letter follows two previous communications to the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency on the 30th September and 16th of November 2022 which have not been acknowledged.

Tswale a bull elephant was captured at Selati Private Game Reserve in 2004 aged 9 with a female elephant named Modjadji aged 11, he was translocated to Elephants for Africa an elephant training facility in Limpopo, in 2006 they were translocated to Kwa Madwala Private Game Reserve in Hectorspruit where they were utilised in the elephant back safari business.

The EMS Foundation offered the owners of Modjaji and Tswale the opportunity to retire the elephants in 2019, this offer was rejected.

While the elephants were chained Modjaji and Tswale suffered injuries in 2022 when they were spooked by hunters and or when a herd of wild elephants entered the property upon which they were being held. Modjaji’s was not able to recover from her injury.

This is the third elephant in captivity to have died unnecessarily in 2022 in the Mpumalanga Province.

URGENT CLARITY REQUESTED BY PREN FROM NAMIBIAN GOVERNMENT REGARDING NEW POTENTIAL PLANS FOR THE EXPORT OF ELEPHANTS

On the 16th of December 2022 the Members of the Pro Elephant Network sent urgent communications to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the CITES Authority in Namibia, to the CITES Secretary General, the CITES Legal Officer, Chair of the Standing Committee, the IUCN Elephant Specialist Group, the Co Chairs of the African Elephant Coalition and Parties to CITES who submitted the Revision of Resolution Conf.10.10 (Rev. CoP18) on the Trade in Live African Elephants.

Read the full communication signed by PREN Members:

Excerpt from the communication:

“You will recall from previous correspondence dating back to  December 2020, that the Members of the Pro Elephant Network (PREN) share a specific interest in the protection of the African Elephant. The expertise of PREN Members encompasses both free-living and held-captive Elephants; the network consists of scientists, academics, wildlife conservationists, representatives from wildlife protection and welfare organisations, environmental lawyers and economists as well as representatives from social justice organisations and indigenous community leaders.   

We note that at the recent CITES meeting in Panama in November 2022, Parties unanimously agreed that while the process for a dialogue meeting is underway to discuss the long-term rules around exports of live wild-caught African 

Elephants, any such exports will be limited to in situ conservation programmes or secure areas in the wild, within the species’ natural and historical range in Africa, except in exceptional circumstances where, in consultation with the Animals committee, through its Chair with the support of the Secretariat, and in consultation with the IUCN African Elephant Specialist Group, it is considered that a transfer to ex situ locations will provide demonstrable in situ conservation benefits for African Elephants, or in the case of temporary transfers in emergency situations.  

Members of PREN previously attempted to engage with representatives from the Namibian government regarding the capture and sale of twenty-two free-living, desert-adapted Elephants which were subsequently exported from Namibia to captivity in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) this year. 

PREN members specifically requested information on the Non-Detriment Findings for the aforementioned transfer, as well as any scientific data supporting the capture and subsequent sale, which has, to our knowledge, never been made public. 

As we are sure you will be aware, two legal opinions[1] have been published regarding the controversial capture and export of free-living Elephants from Namibia, which questioned the legality of exports of live Elephants taken from the wild to captive facilities overseas. We note that the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria publicly distanced themselves from the captive facilities in UAE that received the exported Elephants. 

Furthermore, the capture, sale and trade of the twenty-two Namibian Elephants to the UAE was raised as an issue of concern at the 74th meeting of the CITES Standing Committee in Lyon in France (8th-12th March 2022), and again at the 19th Conference of the Parties held in Panama City in Panama (14th-25th November 2022).

CITES CoP19 agreed to a moratorium, limiting any export of live wild-caught African Elephant to in situ conservation programmes or secure areas in the wild, within the species’ natural and historical range in Africa, except in exceptional circumstances on further live exports while harmonized legal framework is negotiated.

Members of PREN have been reliably informed that six wild-caught Elephants are still being held captive on Mr Gerrie Odendaal’s property, from which the twenty-two Elephants were exported to the UAE in March 2022. 

In the interests of transparency amidst global public concerns, members of PREN hereby formally and publicly request the following information from the Namibian Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism as a matter of urgency:

  1. Confirmation of the holding facility;  
  2. Sex and age of the Elephants;
  3. Details of the capture, its location and copy of justifications for it; 
  4. Copies of all permits; 
  5. Details of sale transaction between the government and private parties; 
  6. Report from the welfare authority on the animals’ status and well-being;
  7. Copy of Non-Detriment Finding in case of planned future export of the Elephants; and
  8. Information on the intentions for these Elephants going forward. 

We hereby request that: 

(a) The Namibian government immediately puts in place measures to prevent the export of the six Elephants to captive facilities, in recognition of the Decision taken by the Parties at the CITES CoP19; 

(b) The Namibian government prioritises their return to their free-living life and herds. 


Image Credit: G.H. Odendaal
https://conservationnamibia.com/blog/namibia-elephant-auction.php;

©Pro Elephant Network 2022. All Rights Reserved

CITES CoP19 STATEMENT IN FAVOUR OF RESOLUTIONS TO PREVENT THE EXPORT OF WILD ELEPHANTS INTO CAPTIVITY

CITES CoP19

ENDORSED STATEMENT IN FAVOUR OF RESOLUTIONS TO PREVENT THE EXPORT OF WILD ELEPHANTS TO ZOOS AND CAPTIVITY

PROPOSAL 5: TRANSFER THE ELEPHANT POPULATIONS OF BOTSWANA, NAMIBIA, SOUTH AFRICA, AND ZIMBABWE FROM APPENDIX II TO APPENDIX I

PROPOSAL 66.4.1: RESTRICT WILD-CAUGHT LIVE EXPORTS TO IN-SITU CONSERVATION PROGRAMMES IN NATURAL AND HISTORICAL RANGES IN AFRICA

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild animals and plants has 184 signatory Parties−any one of the Parties is entitled to submit a proposal to the Conference. The meeting of the CITES Conference of the Parties is the ultimate decision-making body.

The 19th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP)is taking place from the 14th to the 25th of November 2022 in Panama City. Decisions taken at this CoP will continue to shape the international trade in wildlife.

The CITES Secretariat received a proposal, CoP19 Prop. 5, for consideration for the amendment of Appendices I and II, specifically to transfer the Loxodonta Africana populations of Botswana, Namibia, South and Zimbabwe from Appendix II to Appendix I. The proposal was made by members of the African Elephant Coalition namely, Burkina Faso, Equatorial Guinea, Mali, and Senegal.

This proposal, if accepted would result in the prohibition of international trade for primarily commercial purposes in African elephant specimens of wild origin, including from the four range States concerned. States Parties will make their own decisions next month in Panama City at CoP19 about whether this proposal should be adopted or rejected.

“Amending the CITES Appendices is a rigorous, science-based process that demands a wide range of expertise. The stakes are high both for these vulnerable species of plants and animals and for the people whose livelihoods depend upon them. We should also consider that Parties have legally binding obligations towards all species included in the CITES Appendices. It is vital that our decisions be as well- informed and wise as possible” CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero

Any species that appears on Appendix I is effectively banned from commercial international trade. Appendix II species can be traded but that trade is strictly regulated and subject to tight controls from both the exporting and importing Parties.

Despite this, wild elephants were captured in Namibia in February 2022 and exported from Namibia to Al Ain Zoo and Sharjah Safari Park in the United Arab Emirates. The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria has terminated the membership of the Al Ain Zoo in the UAE as a result of the evidence of their investigations related to the multiple breaches of EAZA Codes and Standards which has negatively impacted the reputation of the organization (see Appendix 1). EAZA reiterated its condemnation of the import of the Namibian elephants and will not be drawn into an alternative proposal that may be used to justify the importation of wild elephants into a zoo.

The Pro Elephant Network has supported the further expansive investigations and exposure of the recent and ongoing Namibian wild elephant export debacle.

https://www.thenationalnews.com/uae/environment/2022/10/12/sharjah-ruler-watches-elephants-during-safari-tour/

The Pro Elephant Network remains extremely concerned about the SADC (Southern African Development Community) member’s misinterpretation of current CITES regulations, specifically the export of African elephants outside of their natural range states, a topic that was raised and discussed at the CITES Standing Committee Meeting in Lyon on the 9th of March 2022.

We, the undersigned, respectfully request Parties to CITES to support the proposal of Burkina Faso, Equatorial Guinea, Mali, and Senegal to amend Appendices I and II, specifically to transfer the Loxodonta Africana populations of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe from Appendix II to Appendix I.

We furthermore urge the Parties to support the proposed changes to Resolution Conf. 10.10 (Rev. CoP18) as detailed in CoP19 Doc. 66.4.1 which would restrict wild-caught live exports to in situ conservation programs or secure areas in the wild, within the species’ natural and historical range in Africa, and would apply to all wild African elephants wherever they are located.

MUKUNDAN

OPEN LETTER OF CONCERN FOR THE WELFARE OF ELEPHANT MUKUNDAN AT PUNNATHURKOTTA IN KOTTAPADI, SITUATED NEAR THE GURUVAYOOR SREE KRISHNA TEMPLE IN THE THRISSUR DISTRICT OF KERALA STATE IN SOUTH INDIA

The Members of the Pro Elephant Network have sent an urgent letter of concern about the deteriorating health of Mukundan, one of forty-four elephants living at Punnathurkotta, a centre for captive elephants, located in Kottapadi, about 3km from the Guruvayoor Sree Krishna Temple, in Thrissur District of Kerala State in South India.

Read the Pro Elephant Network Letter Full Letter Here:

08 September 2022

Dear Ms Laiju Mol,  

URGENT OPEN LETTER OF CONCERN FOR THE WELFARE OF ELEPHANT MUKUNDAN AT PUNNATHUR KOTTA, GURUYAYUR


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.  

We would like to congratulate you as the first woman manager to take charge of the Punnathur Kotta, in Guruvayur temple. We hope that you bring a renewed vision and fairness to the pressing issue of captive Elephant welfare and wish you the best. 

We are writing with great concern about the deteriorating health of Elephant Mukundan, one of the forty-four Elephants currently housed at the Punnathur Kotta. 

A recent video of him walking with great difficulty, with multiple chains hanging down his swollen and deformed ankles, and in visible pain has been shared with us by concerned citizens from Kerala. It appears that the untreated fracture in his left hind leg is now completely twisted and ankylosed. 

As you might be aware, Mukundan was gifted to the temple in 1986 at the young age of six, which means that he has spent close to four decades working in chains in the Kotta. 

The untreated fracture and the subsequent ankyloses were initially highlighted in the 2014 Animal Welfare Board of India Report, where it was noted that “due to severe torture by application of iron objects the left leg has internal and external injuries”. The veterinary assessment in the same report recorded that there was an abscess at the left elbow. 

This chronically disabled Elephant is obviously finding it very difficult and painful to walk. His whole anatomy has become abnormal, due to compensation, which relates to the old fracture. He should be immediately retired into a sanctuary where he could at least move around at will and strengthen his atrophied muscles. 

The 2014 AWBI report is a detailed, scientific official record of the very poor conditions and management of elephants who are kept in the Punnathur Kotta. The report highlights the fact that almost fifty Elephants are kept in a wholly inadequate, eleven-acre facility, where they are offered little or no exercise, inadequate shelters, excessive tethering and no opportunity for freedom or socialisation.

The Hindu, a widely respected national Indian newspaper, affirmed the findings of the report, in April 2015, stating:

“The report shows that all the Elephants at the Punnathur Kotta sanctuary are chained with absolutely no exercise. Often, these chains cut into the skin or become embedded in the flesh and have to be surgically removed. The animals are in complete solitude for about 23 hours; some are chained by one hind and one fore leg, while for others it is the hind legs and one fore leg.”[1]

Furthermore, we are concerned that Mukundan is, kept chained 24 hours a day/seven days a week, forced to stand on a hard cement pavement, without any respite or relief. There is no justification for keeping him in such strict confinement while he is barely capable of walking.   

India’s Central Zoo Authority (CZA) has suggested a minimum of two-acre space per captive elephant. However, the forty-four elephants, mostly bulls, are crammed into an eleven-acre land. Males come into their annual musth cycle around the same time. The testosterone levels rise steeply making them more aggressive; all attempts to manage males through isolation, separation and confinement, impact their welfare.[2]

Elephants are highly cognitive and can demonstrate empathy and self-recognition, and display concern for other distressed and dying Elephants. Their cultural learnings are passed through their generations.[3] They 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 and stereotypic behaviour remains the most widely used welfare indicator for elephants.[4] Stereotypy, the invariant restrictive and purposeless repetition of motor patterns,[5] is in fact commonly seen in captive Elephants that are held in impoverished conditions. Exposure to psychological stress has direct physiological consequences that impact the body’s ability to function.[6] This includes neural disfunctions, brain damage[7] and premature death.[8]

A ‘Sanctuary’ is defined as an area where animals live in their habitats with no interference. The key requirement of a sanctuary is that the animals are free and can exercise some form of autonomy. Unfortunately, at Punnathur Kotta the chained Elephants are not offered the same opportunities. 

Elephants are a National Heritage, Schedule 1 animal in India, which entitles them to the highest degree of protection, even when in captivity. 

We share with you the admiration and love for Elephants as majestic and wonderful creatures, who deserve our utmost respect, protection and care when needed. 

Considering all the above,            

  1. As a matter of urgency, we request you to allow a team of independent experts to examine Mukundan, provide him with urgent medical care and treatment and develop a plan for his long-term rehabilitation.
  2. We advise that the Guruvayoor temple urgently implements the 2014 AWBI report recommendations. 
  3. We also request the temple management to open its doors for independent scrutiny of all improvements at the Kota in the last eight years, as per the report attached to this letter.

We, as a global network of Elephant experts, would like to extend our support to achieve the best solutions. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us. 

WORLD ELEPHANT DAY 2022

Charlie, at the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria South Africa / ©EMS Foundation

ON Friday 12th August 2022 we once again observe World Elephant Day.  It is the tenth year that organizations and individuals will rally together to give a united voice to elephants.  Founded by Patricia Sims, this collective global movement continues to be acknowledged by the members of the Pro Elephant Network (PREN) 

Members of PREN specifically advocate reversing the exploitation of elephants through the culture of imprisonment, captive breeding, capture, kidnapping, abuse, exhibition, trading and killing.  

Even though there is a critical mass and ever-growing volume of scientific evidence emphasizing the problems and negative aspects that are associated with keeping elephants in captivity, there are many elephants who continue to suffer this cruel fate. 

On World Elephant Day the members of PREN are drawing attention to some examples of elephants whose current captivity continues to capture the world’s attention and focus in 2022. 

The legal fight to free Happy the elephant continues in New York, in the United States of America.  On the 14th of July 2022, the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) filed a motion to re-argue the 5 – 2 decision by New York’s highest court issued in June 2022, in a landmark case that seeks Happy’s right to liberty and release from the Bronx Zoo and her relocation to an elephant sanctuary.

The New York Court of Appeals is one of the most highly-regarded state appellate courts in the country and two of its justices dissented from the judgement with separate opinions.  Justice Rowan D. Wilson wrote, “When the majority answers, ‘No, animals cannot have rights,’ I worry for that animal, but I worry even more greatly about how that answer denies and denigrates the human capacity for understanding, empathy and compassion” and the court had a duty “to recognize Happy’s right to petition for her liberty not just because she is a wild animal who is not meant to be caged and displayed, but because the rights we confer on others define who we are as a society.”

Judge Jenny Rivera  wrote in her dissent that “a gilded cage is still a cage. Happy may be a dignified creature, but there is nothing dignified about her captivity” and that Happy’s captivity was unjust and that “every day she remains a captive — a spectacle for humans — we, too, are diminished.”

“The New York Court of Appeals […] has created instability and confusion in New York law with grave implications for illegally confined human beings”, the NhRP writes in its motion.  If the re-argument motion is granted, the Court may order another hearing and will issue a decision explaining why it will either reverse or clarify its prior decision. 

Happy at the Bronx Zoo Image Credit: Julie Larsen Maher/Wildlife Conservation Society

The plight of Shankar, an African male elephant from Zimbabwe, currently living in Delhi Zoo, continues.  The Delhi High Court is presently hearing a case which was filed by sixteen-year-old Nikita Dhawan, the founder of Youth for Animals, to free Shankar.  

On 6thJuly 2022, the court ruled out the possibility of sending him back to Africa. Instead, it ordered the Central Zoo Authority and the Animal Welfare Board of India to inspect his living conditions and submit a detailed report, before the 31st of August 2022 – the date when the case will be heard next. Solitary, Shankar has been seen chained and beaten in the Delhi Zoo.  

The Aspinall Foundation has offered to rehabilitate Shankar in a suitable location in Africa at their cost, but sadly the Delhi High Court has rather asked the authorities to explore the possibility of bringing in a female partner for Shankar.  “We will not permit the release of Shankar, we will keep it in India and take care of him here only.  He is ours.  We will look after him properly, don’t worry” the court said. 

Shankar at the Delhi Zoo Image Credit: Nikita Dhawan / Youth for Animals

SOUTH AFRICAN NATIONAL BIODIVERSITY INSTITUTE ANNOUNCES THE DECISION TO RETIRE CHARLIE THE ELEPHANT FROM THE PRETORIA ZOO

The Members of the Pro Elephant Network have supported the EMS Foundation during their nineteenth month transparent process of negotiation with Minister Barbara Creecy and representatives from the South African National Biodiversity Institute with regards to seeking the best possible future options for Charlie, the solitary bull elephant at the Pretoria zoo in South Africa.

We highly commend the forward thinking decision of Minister Creecy and SANBI to retire Charlie from the Pretoria zoo, a decision which was announced today, 29th of July 2022.

We will continue to offer our extensive expertise during this ongoing process, in order to make sure that all the correct decisions are reached for Charlie.

Image Credit: EMS Foundation November 2021

©Pro Elephant Network 2022. All Rights Reserved.

LETTER OF CONCERN FOR THE WELFARE OF THE ELEPHANTS IN KERALA

COPY OF AN OPEN LETTER ADDRESSED TO:

THE MINISTER OF ENVIRONMENT, FOREST AND CLIMATE CHANGE, THE CHAIRMAN OF THE STANDING COMMITTEE ENVIRONMENT AND FORESTS, THE INSPECTOR GENERAL OF FORESTS – PROJECT ELEPHANT, SENIOR REPRESENTATIVE OF THE KERALA HIGH COURT

DATED: 9TH OF MAY 2022

LETTER OF CONCERN FOR THE WELFARE OF THE ELEPHANTS IN KERALA IN INDIA

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.  

The Members of PREN are concerned about the numerous reported deaths of captive Elephants in Kerala. 


Since December 2018, 77 Elephants have died, and at least six since the beginning of this year. The cruel treatment of some of Kerala’s Elephants has been exposed internationally on numerous social media channels. 

Credit: Instagram Kerala Elephant Cruelty @elephantcruelty 

Damning Documentaries have exposed the cruelty shown towards Elephants in religious institutions including the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Guruvayur Temple which is called the “Guruvayur Captive Elephant Sanctuary ” and  “Punathoor Kotta”,  where 45 Elephants, mostly bulls, are permanently kept chained in their own urine and excrements. In an interview with award winning filmmaker Sangita Iyer, renown Spiritual Leader Swami Bhoomananda Theertha describes how Elephants’ feet are set on fire to bring them under control, how handlers throw stones at bulls’ genitals and how these herbivores are purposefully and maliciously fed meat. 

Reports in the media confirmed, that a submission on 6th April 2022, by Honourable Member of Parliament Suresh Gopi requested that the Central Government consider according “Domesticated Animal” Status to Elephants who are held in captivity. The undersigned Members of PREN acknowledge and appreciate the Government’s current policy is that Elephants are intrinsically wild and that there should be not alteration made to this categorisation or associated terminology when referring to Elephants.


Numerous studies[1] and reports indicate that the domestication of wild animals by humans is a socio-biological process which takes thousands of years and involves changes in genealogy. Throughout the 3,000-year history of Human–Elephant relationships, most Elephants utilised by humans have been captured from the wild. Almost all captive Elephants in India are wild caught because Indian Elephants do not breed easily in captivity. 

Elephants used for temple and other religious processions in Kerala, even though they are legally identified as “captive” animals, are indeed biologically wild. Wild Elephants remain victims of the unacceptable practice of violent and traumatic training in their early years, to ensure these majestic animals are subjugated under the control of the Mahout through the medium of fear. The fear is induced through pain, food deprivation and by causing deep psychological damage.[2]

The hidden reality of Elephants in captivity is contrary to the protection guaranteed by Indian law which protects Elephants as a National Heritage Animal, elevated to Schedule-I status under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. This protection applies to all Elephants, wild and those held captive. 

Many Elephants in Kerala are kept permanently chained in the backyards of owners and temples, forced to stand on hard concrete or granite floors, most often with no roof to protect them from the weather. They are deprived of adequate food, water, and any positive physical or mental stimulus.[3] In addition, Elephants are forced to stand on their own urine and excrement and in unhygienic conditions, leading to foot rot and deadly diseases such as tuberculosis. Research indicates that frequent, close contact within confined spaces leads to a two-way transmission between Elephants and humans and a high seroprevalence in these animals and their handlers.


Given the complex brain of Elephants,[4] advanced cognitive abilities, suite of emotional responses and physical expressiveness in a socially embedded life-style, it should not come as a surprise that the denial of natural conditions would lead to physical and psychological trauma and abnormal behaviour, including aggression.[5] In addition, recent research suggests that the impoverished environment provided for these animals has detrimental effects on the brain itself.[6]  

Stereotypy, the invariant restrictive and apparently purposeless repetition of motor patterns,[7] is commonly seen in captive Elephants held in impoverished conditions. Exposure to psychological stress, has direct physiological consequences that impact the body’s ability to function.[8] This includes neural disfunctions, brain damage[9] and premature death.[10]


There is overwhelming scientific evidence that Elephants thrive in tight-knit herds and cultures of their own.[11] In the wild, they create tools, use their massive bodies and physical organs constantly to gather food, graze, socialize[12] and mate.[13]

Elephants have evolved to move across vast areas, in order to meet their nutritional needs;[14]  they consume between 200-250 variety of barks, berries, fruits, leaves, roots, herbs, shrubs, grass and even extract minerals from soil. All of these activities keep them physically, mentally and emotionally engaged. It is known that these highly empathetic animals[15], once torn from their families andsubjected to violence and confinement suffer from severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).[16]

   Arjunan collapsed and died – Photo Credit: Venkitachalam

On April 20, 2022, the Forest and Wildlife Department has again opened the registrar to include new Elephants to be used for parades, Annexure I. This seems to be in contempt of India’s Supreme Court Order dated 18 August 2015, which had finalised the 30thSeptember 2015 as the last deadline for registrations. This further extension questions the validity of the law and exposes the continued trade and transport of Elephants from the wild into captivity in Kerala

While the Central Government has clearly specified in the latest Amendment Bill of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 that “[..] any transfer or transport of an existing captive Elephant for a religious institution may be conducted by a person having a valid certificate of ownership, according to the Elephant data submitted by the forest department before the Supreme Court in 2018, there were 521 captive Elephants in the state. To date that number is 444 Elephants, of which only 19 Elephants have proper documents of ownershipand another 13 Elephants are in the custody of the forest department. 

The Elephants used in these parades are often transported in precarious and unregulated conditions. In March 2022,  an incident involving a truck carrying a bull Elephant crashed into another truck. We are not aware of any investigation following the incident. 

An Elephant standing behind a damaged truck after collision – Photo credit: VK Venkitachalam

Elephants are paraded during excessive heatwaves and can collapse.  They are deprived of food, water, and adequate shelter. They are provoked or beaten with illegal weapons to bring them under control, such as spiked chains and capture belts, utilised to inflict maximum pain and suffering.  

PREN Members have supported the submission from the Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre (WRRC).