The Australian Government has approved the importation of eight Asian elephants from Thailand to Australian zoos. IFAW (www.ifaw.org) has launched an immediate appeal against this decision, working with RSPCA Australia and Humane Society International.
Crates that are intended to export the elephants to Australia. (Click Image to Zoom)
The decision to approve the import is wrong. It does not meet the requirements of Australia's environment legislation. There are three grounds for the appeal:
1. The import will be detrimental to the survival and recovery of the Asian elephant - there is no conservation benefit.
2. Zoos cannot meet the animal welfare needs of elephants.
3. Zoos cannot meet the goals and objectives of conservation breeding.
We have strong evidence that elephants suffer in zoos and the zoos' plan does nothing to address threats to this endangered species.
Scientific research and expert testimony has indicated that despite the best efforts by zoos to upgrade their facilities, the complex biological and behavioural needs of elephants cannot be met in a zoo environment.
In the wild, female elephants are highly social, living in large, close-knit and stable family groups—so stable that females will remain with their natal herd throughout their entire lifetime. Weaning of elephant calves occurs over a long period and is not complete until the birth of a new calf—usually three to six years.
Male calves will leave the herd at around 10–15 years of age and live a largely solitary life.
Elephants are also highly migratory with home ranges between 10–800 km² having been recorded. As a result these animals require large areas of land—something that is impossible to replicate in a zoo environment
Most urban zoo elephant enclosures, including those in Australasia, are smaller than an average football field.
The decision by Detroit Zoo to stop exhibiting elephants for ethical reasons demonstrates that more and more zoos are realising the needs of these animals cannot be met in captivity.
The Director of Detroit Zoo has been quoted as saying, "for us there is a really big question about whether elephants should be in captivity at all."
With this more enlightened view that the needs of elephants cannot be met in captivity, do Australasian zoos really want to take the huge backward step of importing more elephants?