ELEPHANT DEATH LEAVES A MAMMOTH GAP

The death of Kashin, Auckland Zoo's 40-year-old elephant, is a timely reminder that elephants do not belong in zoos. Kashin was euthanised after losing her battle with chronic health problems largely caused by being kept in captivity.

Kashin suffered painful arthritis and foot abscesses, problems often associated with elephants kept in zoos. Kashin was a gentle animal and Auckland Zoo's star attraction since 1973. The aging Asian elephant will be missed by many zoo visitors, but her loss will especially be felt by the zoo's staff who have spent many years trying to make her life as bearable as possible. Burma, the sole surviving 26-year-old elephant, will feel Kashin's death even more acutely. Burma will now be a lone elephant at the zoo, a less than desirable situation for such a social creature.

SAFE believes the best option for Burma would be for her to be relocated to either another zoo, or an elephant sanctuary, where she will be able to enjoy the company of her own kind. Auckland Zoo, however, has other plans. The zoo wants to import a number of captive elephants from European zoos to establish a breeding herd.

"It would make far more sense for Auckland Zoo to find a better home for Burma and use the freed up space at the zoo to provide better conditions for some of their other animals," says SAFE campaign director Hans Kriek.

"Kashin's premature death is sadly all too typical for an elephant held captive at a zoo. Research shows that most captive elephants die at a much younger age than their wild counterparts."

A recent RSPCA (UK) report totally refutes the zoo industry's arguments that elephants need to be in captivity for 'conservation' purposes. The World Wide Fund For Nature and the African Elephant Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature have concluded that captive breeding does not contribute significantly to elephant conservation. The funds spent on captive zoo elephants should be spent on protecting elephants in their natural habitat. The RSPCA (UK) says that keeping elephants in zoos can be up to 50 times more expensive than conserving free-roaming elephants in the wild.

"Burma's immediate future looks lonely and bleak," says Hans. "She is expected to live alone for the next two years unless relocated to another zoo, as MAF has stated that under current legislation it would take two years for other elephants to be imported."