Public vigilance needed for elephant’s sake
Under embargo until arrival of elephants—As eight Asian elephants arrive in Australia, IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare), RSPCA Australia and Humane Society International (HSI) calls on the public to be vigilant for any signs of stress in the animals.
“As a result of our appeal both Melbourne and Taronga Zoos had multiple conditions placed on the import to improve the living conditions for the animals,” said Michael Kennedy, HSI Director.
Both zoos were required to install Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) throughout the enclosures to record the elephants’ behaviour 24 hours per day, seven days a week.
“This important condition needed to be completed prior to the arrival of the animals,” said RSPCA Australia’s Jane Speechley.
“This footage will be a vital management tool in adapting the enclosures and enrichment programs to meet the elephant’s needs—capturing their behaviour when the zoos are closed and their keepers have gone home.”
“Space has always been one of our greatest concerns for these animals—both at Melbourne and Taronga Zoos,” said IFAW’s Rebecca Keeble.
“I think the public will be shocked at just how small the enclosure is at Taronga Zoo—particularly with five elephants in it. Remember, the elephants are still juveniles and will only get bigger.
“Putting elephants in these urban zoo enclosures is like a person spending the rest of their lives locked in a hotel room.”
Another condition placed on Taronga Zoo as a result of the animal welfare group’s appeal, was that if the zoos failed to keep up anticipated regular walks as part of the elephants’ enrichment program, the animals must be moved to an open range facility.
One obvious sign that the elephants do not have adequate space, stimulation and social bonds is stereotypic behaviour, which includes repetitive unnatural movements such as swaying and head bobbing. Prolonged periods of inactivity in the elephants are also signs of boredom and depression.
“These behaviours develop over time so we are calling on the public to be vigilant and to keep the zoos and our groups informed of what they see—together we can do everything we can to minimise the suffering of these animals,” the groups said.