AR-News: (US CA) Zoos across U.S. debate proper care of Asian
Animalara2003 at aol.com
Animalara2003 at aol.com
Sun Jul 4 09:33:19 EDT 2004
Sunday, July 04, 2004
Studies show pachyderms need company, acreage
By Zerah Lurie
When Wanda and Winky, two female Asian elephants at the Detroit Zoo, are
transplanted, most likely to a sanctuary in the South, they may be the first
elephants relocated by a major animal facility for humane reasons.
"We now more fully understand an elephant's needs," Ron Kagan, director of
the Detroit Zoological Institute, said in a May 20 statement. "Just as polar
bears don't thrive in hot climates, Asian elephants shouldn't live in small
groups without many acres to roam. They clearly shouldn't have to suffer winters
of the North."
"The animal welfare ethic is emerging more prominently," says Wayne Pacelle,
president of the Humane Society of the United States. "It used to be that
basically you were just showcasing animals for the visitors." But over time, he
said, we've "seen the mission expand . . . to include animals' welfare."
Kagan hopes the zoo's decision will generate discussion about the welfare of
elephants in captivity. Other zoo officials contacted offered praise for Kagan's
decision to put the welfare of his animals first, but none intended to
relocate their elephants.
Elephant welfare has been a particular topic of discussion during the past
few years. According to a 2000 study, the captive Asian elephant population in
North America isn't self-sustaining. Given the current birth and death rates,
the population of female elephants at accredited zoos will drop from 157 in
1999 to only five by 2049.
"We better do the best we can to make our populations self-sustaining," says
the author of the study, Robert Wiese, director of animal collections at the
Fort Worth (Texas) Zoo. "Elephants in the wild aren't doing very well -- our
captive populations may be the last hope if we can't protect them in the
wild." "We don't actually know what elephants need in captivity," said Georgia
Mason, a behavioral biologist at Oxford University and author of a report on
the welfare of captive elephants in Europe. "I'm sure in principle, it's
possible to keep anything well in captivity as long as you do the research to find
out its needs."
>From beasts we scorn as soulless,
In forest, field and den,
The cry goes up to witness
The soullessness of men.
~M. Frida Hartley
>' .' <
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