Ratepayers to foot the bill for Auckland Council’s ‘white elephant’

SAFE is disappointed in Auckland Council’s decision today to approve funding to relocate an elephant from Sri Lanka to Auckland Zoo, saying it is a cause for concern for local ratepayers and animals.

Mandy Carter, campaigns director, gave a presentation to Auckland councillors this morning on the costs of this decision to both animal welfare - from bringing the elephant, Nandi from her home in Sri Lanka to Auckland’s small urban zoo - and to local ratepayers who will be footing the bill for this short-sighted plan, which totals $3.2 million for two elephants. $1.6 million has already been spent on importing Anjalee.

The meeting of the Finance and Performance Committee approved a budget omission of $549,000, with 15 councillors voting for the motion, and five against. One of the councillors who voted against made the point that the money could be better spent elsewhere.

There has been an outcry from eighteen community organisations in Sri Lanka, who have been fighting to prevent the export of Nandi through their Court of Appeal for the past eighteen months.

Auckland Zoo currently houses long-term captive elephant Burma, plus another from Sri Lanka, Anjalee, who arrived in June 2015 amongst heavy criticism internationally. New Zealand was ‘gifted’ an additional elephant earlier this year, who, it is planned, will join them. Auckland Zoo ostensibly plans to start a breeding programme, at a cost of approximately $13 million dollars.

“Nandi is being separated from her home just to live life essentially as a mascot for the rest of her disappearing kin, and to prop up zoo visitor numbers. The opposition from both Sri Lankans and international animal welfare experts has been ignored,” says Ms Carter.

A consortium of over 20 highly respected leading elephant experts has called upon plans for more elephants to be imported, to be rejected.

“The zoo’s plans are at odds with the thinking in leading zoos around the world which are increasingly moving away from keeping elephants on welfare grounds. The ‘breeding programme’ proposed for Auckland Zoo is a money-sink in both the short and long-term, with no relevance to conservation. Elephants born and bred in zoos cannot be and never are released back into the wild. Any elephants born at Auckland Zoo will remain in captivity their entire lives.” added Ms. Carter.

“Much of New Zealand’s native wildlife is in dire need of funding to help conserve the species - the $1.6 million could go a long way. Conversely, it is estimated to be 50 times more expensive to keep an elephant in a zoo than to protect an elephant in the wild,” says Ms Carter.

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24 October 2017