PREN’S RESPONSE TO CORRESPONDENCE RECEIVED:
21ST FEBRUARY 2020
Mr. Michael Daly
Director, the Zoological Society of Ireland Phoenix Park, Dublin 8
Mr. Leo Oosterweghel Director, Dublin Zoo Dublin Zoo,
Phoenix Park Dublin 8 Ireland DO8 AC98 firstname.lastname@example.org
c/o The Hon Richard Bruton
Minister of Climate Action and Environment 29-31 Adelaide Rd
Dublin D02 X285 email@example.com
c/o The Hon Sussan Ley MP Minister for the Environment PO Box 6022 House of Representatives Parliament House Canberra ACT 2600 firstname.lastname@example.org
c/o 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 Elephant Welfare Group c/o the Senior Manager Animal Care and Conservation
Nicky Needham Nicky.Needham@biaza.org.uk
c/o The Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA) c/o President Mr Al Mucci PO Box 538 Mosman NSW 2088 Australia email@example.com
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.
Dr Marion Garai
Elephant Specialist Advisory Group