Despite strong opposition from some of the world's most respected elephant experts the Auckland Council has voted in favour of Auckland Zoo's proposal to import two young female Asian elephants. The decision has angered and disappointed SAFE, WSPA and the RNZSPCA who are unanimous in their concern for the welfare of the elephants.

The Mayor says the decision is an important step as the new Auckland implements its strategy to become an events capital and a destination rather than a gateway.

"It's also great news for Auckland's children," says Len Brown. "Few of us get the chance to see these majestic animals in the wild and it's great to be able to experience these wonderful creatures up close in a world class zoo environment."

SAFE campaign director Eliot Pryor gave a short presentation to the Auckland Council to highlight SAFE's concerns. He said the Auckland Zoo proposal to have an elephant herd was not feasible and more likely to become a cruel ‘white elephant' if approved. He criticised the mayor's position that this was great news for children.

"What is the message is being given to the new generations? They will see that the needs of people once again come before the conservation of a highly endangered species. To remove these magnificent animals from their native land and put them into a restricted space, with inadequate social grouping, with consequent health problems seems to be acceptable," says Eliot.

"In effect, the decision to import elephants into Auckland was maneuvered by Auckland Zoo, which provided a financial plan that gave just two options: either import more elephants and revenues will go up, or send Burma away and revenues will go down," says Eliot. "The zoo provided no feasible alternative other than to have elephants."

A consortium of top international elephant experts including Dr Cynthia Moss, Dr Joyce Poole and Dr Keith Lindsay backed  SAFE, WSPA and the RNZSPCA, New Zealand's top three leading animal charities. An extract of a letter signed by these scientists and other experts to the mayor and councillors, read:

"After lengthy and careful consideration, we are convinced that removing elephants from Sri Lanka at this time, whatever the motives, is not helpful in any way to securing better outcomes for elephants in that island nation. The sense, in much of Asia, that elephants can be treated as livestock, as commodities, works actively against efforts to promote elephant welfare and conservation. On these grounds alone we urge the council not to support Auckland Zoo's plans."

25 May 2011