AR-News: (USA) Save Wild Elephants Coalition

molly mgh at
Sat Aug 9 13:05:34 EDT 2003

Save Wild Elephants Coalition


August 8, 2003


(WASHINGTON, DC) – Today, in a momentous decision, United States District
Court Judge John D. Bates denied a preliminary injunction request that would
have barred the San Diego Zoo and Lowry Park Zoo from immediately importing
eleven wild African elephants from their homes in Swaziland and
incarcerating them in restrictive 2.5 acre enclosures in the U.S. The
plaintiffs in the case (Born Free USA, Born Free Foundation, People for the
Ethical Treatment of Animals, The Elephant Alliance, Animal Protection
Institute, Animal Welfare Institute, In Defense of Animals, San Diego Animal
Advocates, Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Elephant Sanctuary, and others)
decry the ruling.

At a preliminary injunction hearing on August 6, lawyers for the zoos
arrogantly warned the judge against playing "Russian roulette" with the
lives of these elephants. "It’s the height of hypocrisy for the zoos’ hired
henchmen to create a situation where elephants’ lives are unnecessarily in
peril and then blame a U.S. judge if they die," said Adam Roberts of Born
Free USA, the lead plaintiff in the case. "If the zoos had acted in good
faith from the start, this situation would not be as desperate as they are
now claiming it is today."

"Ted Reilly’s, a part of Swaziland’s Tourism Department with management
responsibilities under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) which regulates international trade in
wild animals, threats to kill these eleven elephants if they are not
exported to the two zoos in the United States worked," said Nicole Paquette
of the Animal Protection Institute. "First the FWS issued the zoos their
import permits for these elephants and now a federal judge has allowed the
importation to move forward all because Mr. Reilly is threatening to kill
these animals – this is not justice it’s extortion."

"It’s amazing to me how the zoo representatives speak out of both sides of
their mouths," said Jane Cartmill of San Diego Animal Advocates. "On the one
hand they say they care about these elephants and their conservation in the
wild; on the other they say, give us the elephants we bought for a measly
$12,000 each or we don’t care if Mr. Reilly kills them."

"What’s worse," Roberts added, "is that the zoos want to shift the blame to
everyone else: Reilly, the judge, animal protection organizations. They
should take responsibility for the miserable situation they’ve created as a
result of their own astounding avarice."

"It’s been international trade policy by extortion," added Debbie Leahy of
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. "The judge clearly felt backed
into a corner and didn’t want blood on his hands. What is most disturbing,
perhaps, is that only recently did we learn that two of the captured
elephants are pregnant. It seems that the zoos are trying to get a neat
two-for-one deal. What kind of people fight to transport pregnant elephants
9,000 miles by plane? It’s repulsive."

Even if there is a justifiable need to remove these elephants from
Swaziland, there are destinations in the wild in Southern Africa that are
willing to provide humane homes rather than 2.5 acre enclosures in the
California and Florida zoos. The Shamwari Reserve in South Africa’s Eastern
Cape has nearly 7,700 acres for elephants and a willingness to take the
elephants. The Ngome Game Reserve in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal Province
also is willing to take the elephants as part of a burgeoning
community-based ecotourism project.

"In the end," said Suzanne Roy of In Defense of Animals, "the San Diego Zoo
does not want these elephants to save their lives – they could go elsewhere.
They want them for captive breeding programs in the hopes of creating more
elephants for exhibition despite the fact that breeding elephants in
captivity is a dismal failure and the zoo already had elephants they could
have tried to breed, but who were evicted to make room for these new ones.
Zoos want new wild, young elephants, because those animals bring in the
visitors and their wallets. This was never about conservation. It’s always
been about money and profits."

Joyce Tischler of the Animal Legal Defense Fund added, "Conservation is not
about building captive animal displays – it is not about taking elephants
from the wild and breaking up families. Conservation is about preserving
habitat and animals. African elephants breed well in the wild and poorly in
captivity. It is wrong to take elephants from their natural environments
where they thrive and put them in a captive situation where they suffer from
mental and health problems, where they stop reproducing due to stress and
suffer from lack of exercise and boredom and domination by humans."

For more details contact:
Nicole Paquette, Animal Protection Institute, 916/447-3085 x214
Adam Roberts, Born Free USA 202/337/3123
Suzanne Roy, In Defense of Animals 415/898-2720
Debbie Leahy, PETA 630/393-9627
Katherine Meyer, Tanya Sanerib, Meyer & Glitzenstein, 202/588-5206 x16
Carol Buckley, the Elephant Sanctuary, 931/796-6500 x22
Cathy Liss, Animal Welfare Institute, 703/836-4300


David DeWitt
Communications Coordinator
Animal Protection Institute
P.O.Box 22505
Sacramento, CA  95822
(916)447-3085 x223
(916)447-3070 FAX

"Humankind has not woven the web of life.
We are but one thread within it.
Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
All things are bound together.
All things connect."
- Chief Seattle


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