The plight of Shankar in Delhi Zoo, the lone African elephant from Zimbabwe, continues to baffle and amaze wildlife lovers and animal welfare/rights activists nationally and internationally. Three years after highlighting his plight here on ElephantVoices, Shankar is still chained, still beaten and has no company of his own species. The best option is for the Indian government to send Shankar away to a wildlife refuge in Africa, in Kenya preferably where he can live among his own kind. To achieve that there has to be a way to overcome the halo surrounding his status as a diplomatic gift.
Shankar's plight illustrates the sordid state of African Elephants in captivity in India, with the two animals in deplorable conditions in Mysore Zoo as other grim examples, says Shubhobroto Ghosh, author of The Indian Zoo Inquiry(1.14 MB). In this synopsis (1.36 MB) Ghosh describes the fortunes of African elephants in Indian Zoos and in particular a pair from Zimbabwe that were given in 1998 as a diplomatic gift to the Indian President. We urge all friends of Zimbabwe to do what they can to convince the Government that what they are doing is of disservice also for their tourism industry and their own people.
In the synopsis Ghosh strongly urges range states to leave free-ranging African and Asian elephants strictly where they belong - in the wild. In late 2009 India took the enlightened step of banning elephant from zoos - applauded from around the world.
Zoo elephants shunned of basic needs
Dr. Sunil Srivastava, a veterinary doctor with 25 years experience and Delhi representative of international animal rights organisation Animal Equality says, “In the wild animals have their roles and jobs to fulfill. The natural behaviour exercised by them provides the required physical and mental stimulation. But zoo elephants are shunned of their basic needs and Shankar is no exception to this. During my early days when I volunteered with the Delhi zoo, I noticed deep bruises on the ankles of elephants, a result of their struggle to get out of the chains. One of the Delhi zoo keepers agrees that elephants are chained during the period of musth.”
Amruta Ubale of Animal Equality adds, “In an informal exercise at a zoo, we asked lay visitors about stereotypic behaviour in elephants like head bobbing, swaying, etc. The common answer we received is the elephants seem happy and are dancing.”
The grim practise of exporting elephant babies
In the mean time Zimbabwe continue to reach the headlines, for the wrong reasons. Their recent delivery of four baby elephants to China shows that elephants welfare is way down on their agenda. One has alredy died. Fourteen more babies, who are milk dependent, are slated to be shipped off soon. As in 2010 - Zimbabwe show little concern for the tragic consequences of this grim practice. Several countries have appearantly expressed their interest in importing many more elephants from Zimbabwe. We can only hope that sound arguments, compassion and decency will prevail, but we are not too optimistic.
Shankar in the Delhi Zoo spends most of his life in chains and is regularly beaten (note the large scar on his forehead). He was gifted in 1998 by Zimbabwe to the Indian Government as one of a pair. He is now approximately 14 years old; his female companion died a few years after shipment.
Photo courtesy of Nina Kanderian of Wildlife Conservation Society Afghanistan.
Asian and African Elephant in Delhi Zoo. Photo by Basav Bhattacharya, taken 10 November 2012.
Through Junia Machado and other good elephant friends in Brazil, ElephantVoices is working hard for the best interest of elephants in this progressive country. Our main objectives are
To create awareness about elephant conservation and the welfare needs of captive elephants in Brazil, and to secure that a sanctuary for elephants is established as soon as possible.
To get such a sanctuary in Brazil off the ground is key to discussions about getting elephants suffering in circuses and bad zoos moved to a new home. Without having a good alternative in place for abused elephants, it is difficult to get the political process regarding elephant welfare moving forward. Junia and others are currently learning as much as possible about the captive elephants in Brazil - many kept under terrible conditions. ElephantVoices believe there are 25 elephants in Brazilian zoos, and 6 in circuses or chained on rural properties, but are still working to get these figures and details related to each elephant confirmed.
Junia and Ana have met up with Petter and Joyce in Kenya and the Maasai Mara twice, and in March 2012 they joined at PAWS Summit for Elephants hosted by Oakland Zoo. Junia and Ana are also contributing work and data to ElephantVoices' conservation initiative for the Mara elephants, Elephant Partners.
Our main collaborators in Brazil, in addition to Junia Machado and Ana Zinger, are Maria Cristina Mullins, Teca Franco, Martha Toledo, Tiago Esteves Carvalhaes, Andrea Schmidt, Mayara Barbi and Carol Toledo. There are also other volunteers supporting their efforts on specific issues, like Mario Duarte, Luciana Dallari, Ticiana Carneiro, Felicia Mendonça, Sabrina Cury, José Licciardi and Marcos Marcello. Two agronomists, Cesar Frizzo and Vanessa Rizzi, are currently checking land-related issues and possibilities in connection with a future sanctuary.
ElephantVoices Brasil is also networking with a substantial number of people working for elephants in other countries in South-America, and aims to contribute ideas and the sound science-based knowledge of ElephantVoices wherever it can be of help. Get in touch with
if you want to join ElephantVoices Brasil in their efforts!
We applaud the decision by the Toronto City Council to send Toka, Iringa and Thika to PAWS! Having observed the elephants at PAWS and seen the positive changes in individuals who have been placed there, we have no reservations in saying that this decision is the right choice for Toronto’s elephants. Joyce joined Toronto City Councillor, Michelle Berardinetti, and Linda Bronfman of Everyone Loves Elephants on NEWSTALK 1010 on 23 November to call for the zoo to support the Council's decision. Jane Goodall, too, has added her support for the move. Click on the image to read her strong words regarding captive elephants.
Regarding the threats by the AZA over accreditation, we wish to state the following:
Accreditation is important - when it is used to ensure that the welfare of animals are protected; but accreditation by the AZA and CAZA also means abiding by rules that have nothing to do with the welfare of elephants; indeed some of these can be detrimental to them. When it comes to the daily well being of elephants, PAWS’ standards far exceed those of the AZA. Indeed, the standards required for accreditation by the AZA and CAZA fall far short of what is needed to meet the well being of elephants.
The bullying tactics by the AZA machinery consists of the same old tired rhetoric heard each time a zoo considers sending an elephant to one of the sanctuaries. This noise is not about elephant welfare, but about an institution feeling threatened by the winds of change. The continuing misinformation and, we're sorry to say this, outright lies, emanating from the AZA about captive and even wild elephants, is tiresome, and does nothing to improve the welfare of the elephants in their institutions nor does it help the conservation of wild elephants.
It is time that we all work together to do what is best for the individual elephants held captive and for the continuing protection of a species that should, actually, remain in the wild.
The concept of eZoo is developed jointly by the Franz Weber foundation and Libera, and is a revolutionary project based on the latest technological advances. It is meant to include virtual reality, animatronics, enhanced reality, mapping and 3D projections, with the aim of turning a visit into a unique educational experience. eZoo is designed to create a space in which to raise awareness about the importance of species conservation - and respect for animals, their habitats and ecosystems - with programs adapted to the different types of visitors (children, families - students at primary schools, high schools and universities), as well as being a meeting point for local, national and international scientists and other experts.
In their press release eZoo states that one of their objectives is collaboration with organisations that run field conservation programs, including financial collaboration as well as publicity generation and exchange of knowledge. Examples include grant programs for field researchers and university students who wish to carry out studies of animals in their country of origin. eZoo also intend to push forward research into global warming, and to create a website for education, research and project funding.
eZoo aim to incorporate technological advances and developments which will give life to virtual animals immersed in recreations of their natural habitats and which can be seen acting in a totally natural state. The technology will allow visitors to not only feel immersed in the habitat of every species of animal and plant, but also “live” the experience as if it were real. As such, it will let the public interact with the virtual animals.
Video presenting the concept of eZoo, an animal-free and revolutionary zoo based on the latest technological advances.
Projeccio Interactive, video showing some of the possibilities through the use of high-end multimedia techniques.
We are following with substantial interest and excitement the current discussion in Toronto where, on 12th May, the Toronto Zoo Board will decide whether the city's Zoo should phase out their elephants. We're encouraged to read in a recent report that the Toronto Zoo staff are recommending that the zoo should let their three aging African elephants, Iringa, Thika and Toka, go. And, we are willing to contribute our expertise and our elephant sound recordings from our collection to Toronto Zoo if they decide to build a new elephant exhibit without elephants!
ElephantVoices will support any high-tech, interactive, science-based elephant exhibit without elephants, and for many years we have hoped that a progressive zoo will grab the opportunity of being the first one out. We're convinced that such an exhibit will educate visitors about elephants, their behavior, their complex communication, their interests and the threats to their survival in the wild in a way that is dynamic and stimulating. We also believe that most of today's zoo visitors understand why elephants should not be confined in an urban zoo, and this should be even easier for people to grasp considering Toronto's cold climate. Toronto Zoo will gain respect and increased interest by such a move, rather than the opposite.
On 6th May in Toronto's thestar.com, City Councillor and Toronto Zoo Board Member, Glenn De Baeremaeker, is quoted saying: “Overall I’m very pleased with the report". And, "It’s cold in Toronto especially in January... You have a moral responsibility to the animals you shipped into this country to take care of them. And they’re currently in a space that is grotesquely too small.” We are in complete agreement that Toronto is no place for elephants. Without going further into the discussion about Iringa, Thika and Toka's living conditions, we think the Zoo staff's report and De Baeremaeker's statement leaves no doubt. That amazingly generous animal advocate, Bob Barker, has offered to help in covering the costs of moving the three elephants, should contribute to persuading the Board to do the only right thing for Iringa, Thika and Toka.
ElephantVoices has argued for the need for elephant exhibits without elephants for many years, and we strongly support the Elephant Learning Centre initiative proposed by Zoocheck Canada. Their inspiring slideshow presentation of this concept (linked from slide below, you need Google account to look through) will inspire anyone who is looking into the possibility of creating a highly educational and crowd-pleasing elephant exhibit. We know that there are many others thinking in this direction. Right now Toronto Zoo has a unique opportunity to do the right thing for their own AND other elephants - we urge them to follow their staff's recommendation. Let the elephants go, Toronto Zoo! Give Iringa, Thika and Toka a better life and Toronto Zoo a better elephant exhibit!