Thu. Aug 22nd, 2019

NSPCA quits Joburg Zoo ethics committee in protest over Lammie the elephant

The furore has increased.

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The furore over the zoo’s solitary elephant has increased as the NSPCA (National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) resigned from the Johannesburg Zoo Animal Ethics Committee after being excluded from decisions regarding Lammie.

“We were not included in either decisions or discussions on this critical, controversial issue that has both welfare and ethical implications. We are being used as window dressing,” says Karen Trendler, NSPCA Trade & Trafficking manager.

“The Lammie issue was never brought to the ethics committee and yet, publicly, the zoo is stating that it was and that we’re on their ethics committee every time they’re questioned.

“The NSPCA has also addressed a letter of demand to the Zoo Management and Joburg mayor, Herman Mashaba, saying if they move forward with obtaining another elephant, “the NSPCA would launch an application in the High Court to interdict such action.”

The zoo’s correspondence regarding a second elephant has been contradictory. At first, the Zoo denied plans to obtain a second elephant and publicly accused the NSPCA of lying about these plans when they spoke out against such a move.

Joburg City Parks & Zoo public relations manager Jenny Moodley stated that the zoo would not entertain discussions over the “unfounded” claims by the NSPCA, and that “no decision had been made over whether another elephant would be brought in or not”.

However, the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), of which Joburg Zoo is a member, contradicts Moodley’s claims. According to WAZA CEO Doug Cress, the zoo is, in fact, actively “looking to find a second elephant to join Lammie”.

Trendler says the arrival of a second elephant is imminent and should be treated as an emergency. “We’ve sent out the legal communication as we just can’t risk for another elephant to just arrive at the zoo.

“If this were to happen, it would almost be too late. A captive herd would have been broken up and one of its members sent away. There is also no guarantee that Lammie and the new elephant would even get along” Trendler says.

The zoo’s insensitive decision to keep Lammie on in her barren enclosure has baffled elephant management experts as there are two sanctuaries willing to take in Lammie and introduce her to a herd of previously-captive elephants on a free-roaming reserve.

The Elephant Reintegration Trust (ERT), EMS Foundation and Humane Society International (HSI), have offered their joint assistance to the zoo to move Lammie to a new home – an operation which would be fully funded. The groups have requested numerous meetings with Mayor Mashaba and City Parks to no avail. A number of emails citing scientific data and a 6-page report detailing the behaviour and enclosure use of Lammie have gone unanswered since October last year.

The only correspondence from the zoo was a generic press release informing concerned parties that Lammie would be staying on at the Zoo.

“Even if not everybody agreed,” Trendler says, “we feel that proposals regarding Lammie’s future had to be discussed with the NSPCA as a member of the zoo’s ethics committee,” as well as the other relevant parties willing to help. “It was just never brought to the table.”

ERT chair Brett Mitchell says, “The zoo is completely misinforming to the public by stating that Lammie is doing well. Our report, which has been shared with the zoo, shows that Lammie’s overall welfare is way below standard, which is a form of cruelty. It is a requirement of WAZA to provide Environmental Enrichment, and this is clearly not the case with Lammie.”

Mitchell also says finds the zoo’s argument that Lammie serves as a representative of South African wildlife to the poor and disadvantaged communities unconvincing.

“Watching one lone elephant does nothing to provide the public with any education value but rather shows an entirely incorrect picture of what an elephants’ life should be about. The zoo is actually teaching the public that it is acceptable to treat animals in this manner.

“It is unfortunate that the zoo continues to argue the education and conservation role of Lammie as there is an opportunity for the Zoo to do the right thing and show the world that the zoo and the City of Joburg is progressive with animal welfare,” he says.

To sign the petition, please click here.

conservationaction.co.za

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