Today, 2 August, marks five years since Aaron Leider and Robert Culp, the late world renown actor, filed a case against Los Angeles Zoo and its director, John Lewis. It has been a long battle, but the ruling from 23 July shows it was worth it. Even though the court didn't close down the LA Zoo elephant exhibit, the ruling is highly critical of both the staff and so-called experts from LA Zoo and AZA.
We are gratified that the landmark ruling for animals in captivity states that evidence presented by ElephantVoices' Joyce Poole was "the most credible testimony". The main point, though, is that a dedicated team, with attorney, David Casselman, at the helm, did a great job preparing and in court. Elephants need people to fight for a better tomorrow - the LA Zoo case demonstrates clearly the suffering caused by human ignorance, lack of competence and straight out cover up of the real issues concerning elephants in captivity.
From the perspective of elephants and their interests, there are many highlights in the ruling. While it is our opinion that the evidence presented offers a strong basis for closing down the exhibit, it also inspires us to further define scientifically sound arguments for why elephants don't belong in urban zoos. The headline, above all others, is the lack of space.
For the benefit of LA Zoo's elephants Billy, Tiny and Jewell, The Court has:
Banned the use of bull hooks and electric shock;
Ordered the City of Los Angeles and the Zoo Director to roto-till the exhibit regularly, consistent with the standards and recommendations of Dr. Oosterhuis and Jeff Andrews
Ordered the City of Los Angeles and the Zoo Director to exercise the elephants at least two hours a day, unless weather or emergency conditions make it impracticable.
We urge you to read the ruling, which is educational in itself.
Two quotes from the ruling speak volumes to the elephant cause - and there are many others:
"Contrary to what the zoo's representatives may have told the Los Angeles City Council in order to get the construction of the $42 million exhibit approved and funded, the elephants are not healthy, happy, and thriving".
“Captivity is a terrible existence for any intelligent, self-aware species. To believe otherwise, as some high-ranking zoo employees appear to believe, is delusional. And the quality of life that Billy, Tina, and Jewel endure in their captivity is particularly poor.”
We believe this ruling will act as a serious wake-up call for the LA Zoo and the AZA, and can only hope that the real interests of elephants will in future be put higher on their agenda. We will in any case not rest in our efforts to push for a better life for Billy, Tina, Jewell and the many other zoo elephants who are suffering.
The ruling is long, but well worth reading. You can read or download it from this link, or download it directly here. (6.98 MB). You may also like to read the two articles linked below to get further insight and perspectives into what Judge John L. Segal concluded:
On August 25 last year ElephantVoices' Joyce Poole and Petter Granli participated in a videoconference with Ricardo Tripoli - a Representative in the Congress of Brazil. Tripoli is actively working to promote Bill 7291/2006, which would ban the use of animals in circuses throughout Brazil. Viviane Benini Cabral, Fauna Projects Legal Coordinator for the Office of the Representative, and Junia Machado, ElephantVoices' representative in Brazil, also participated. The objective of this meeting was to create an alliance between the organization and Representative Tripoli to help approve the Bill. ElephantVoices, mainly through Junia Machado, and Tripoli continue to discuss this important initiative.
Terrible conditions for circus elephants
It is estimated that there are between 35 and 40 elephants in Brazil, 23 of them in zoos (519.25 kB) and the rest in circuses. There are pictures, videos and reports on some of these circuses, and the elephants are living under terrible conditions. As some Brazilian municipalities and states have already banned the use of animals in circuses, some of these animals are being rented out to circuses in other Latin American countries. Such transport over long distance only exacerbates their suffering. You can read some more about the situation for elephants in Brazil in a previous news piece here on ElephantVoices.
If Bill 7291/2006 is approved, Brazilian circuses will have eight years to give up these animals, either sending them to zoos, sanctuaries/reserves or releasing them into their natural habitat, if that is appropriate. Most zoos in Brazil offer conditions for elephants, at least, that are far from satisfactory. We are, therefore, discussing the need to develop a place(s) to rehabilitate these elephants. Such a "sanctuary", if you will, must have enough space for these abused elephants to roam freely, have a semblance of autonomy and be allowed to interact and form natural social groups.
The situation for elephants worldwide was also discussed during the videoconference, including their geographical distribution, the estimated number of elephants in captivity, poaching of elephants for ivory and the issue of sport hunting in some African countries.
"Animals in captivity are in a situation very similar to that of someone imprisoned for life. In the circuses, they go from the pen to the circus where they perform, and again back to the pens. For them, it is a sentence of life imprisonment", stated representative Tripoli. "We will certainly become much stronger with the support of ElephantVoices, obtaining a favorable vote in the Brazilian Congress. Together, we will achieve much more".
A ban important step for elephants - and Brazil
ElephantVoices will give full support to Representative Ricardo Tripoli in pursuing the welfare of elephants in Brazil, providing articles, scientific documents and information on their behavior, their needs and all the issues related to their confinement and use in circus spectacles. By providing this support, ElephantVoices hopes to make a contribution toward this very important step for the country and its elephants.
The environmental representative had a decisive role in the discussions about this Bill and was the head of a task force made up by the organized civil society. The Bill was approved by the Environment and Sustainable Development Committee and also by the Education and Culture Committee. He was also the leader in this Committee of a group defending animals, presenting a petition with more than 100.000 signatures in favor of this Bill approval. When the Bill was in the Constitution and Justice Committee, Tripoli was the spokesperson and stressed in his report the cruelty associated with the use of animals in circuses. The report was approved without amendments. He also made a request to include this project in the agenda and believes that the Bill will be voted in 2011. "This victory in the animal protection movement is the victory of life," stresses Tripoli.
The Representative states that the next step to take is related to people that have farms and want to keep wild animals, as "private zoos".
The video from the conference is produced by Ricardo Tripoli's office. The version to the left is with subtitles in English, the one to the right with subtitles in Portuguese.
About Representative Ricardo Tripoli
Ricardo Tripoli has played a very important role as the voice and the vote of all forms of life and environment in the Brazilian Congress. Besides his decisive participation in the discussion about the Bill banning the use of animals in circuses, he has been active in other fields:
Vice-President of the Environment and Sustainable Development Committee of the House of Representatives, the Fauna Coordinator of the Environment Parliamentary Group in the Brazilian Congress and Vice-Leader of his party, PSDB (Brazilian Social Democracy Party) in the House of Representatives. Tripoli had a key role in the consolidation of the National Policy on Climate Changes when he was the chairman of the National Congress Special Mixed Committee on Climate Changes.
As a State Representative, he authored the State Code on Animal Protection, Law n. 11.977/05 and obtained its approval. In the beginning of his term as Representative, Tripoli presented Bill 215/07, creating the Federal Code on Animal Welfare that is presently being analysed in the Federal Congress, a pioneer proposal that introduces the welfare concept to several activities involving animal breeding and animal experiments. "Animals do not speak, they cannot communicate, call the authorities nor defend their rights. It is our duty to speak and act on their behalf!"
More recently, Tripoli has become strongly opposed against the environmental setbacks included in the Government's proposal in the so-called "reform" of the Forestry Code. He was against the pardon granted to the ones who had already deforested their properties (biomes of brazilian biodiversity) and demanded that the Judiciary Power and the academia be heard, but unfortunately this did not happen and the final report that was approved benefits those responsible for the devastation. He is now getting ready to fight for changes in the final text when the subject is taken to the Plenary. Tripoli stresses that those responsible for this setback, the Government party and its allies, seem to forget that human life depends strictly on water availability. "Without the forest there is no water, without water there are no animals, without wild animals both the forest and the water will die. With no animals, forest and water, agriculture will also be impaired and human life will no longer be feasible".
Ever since our fascinating visit to Sri Lanka in 2003 we have been following the elephant situation on this beautiful island with increasing anxiety. Forgive us for naively thinking that a Buddhist society with a value system that recognises non-human animals as an equal life form would take better care of elephants than others. In truth, the way in which elephants in the wild AND in captivity are managed and cared for in Sri Lanka is in desperate need of improvement. Indeed, in August this year Sri Lankan wildlife veterinarians went on strike to protest the mismanagement of elephants.
In this day and age of Internet communication, every article published is in the global domain. The appalling stories appearing online do not give confidence in the Government of Sri Lanka's ability to either care for the well being of elephants held captive, nor to secure a future for the wild members of a species so culturally and touristically important to the country. Both the Minister of Economic Development, Basil Rajapaksa, and Minister of Agrarian Services and Wildlife, S. M. Chandrasena, must be informed that people all over the world care about what is happening and that, in addition to the purely conservation and ethical concerns, the continuing mismanagement and mistreatment of elephants has the potential to jeopardize Sri Lanka's tourism industry and must be addressed. The Ministers must also be informed that many of the human-elephant conflict interventions are merely exacerbating the situation. We believe both Ministers should be approached following a Cabinet reshuffle 22 Nov., since Minister Rajapaksa continue to be responsible for tourist-related issues, while S. M. Chandrasena's Ministry from the same date is responsible for Department of Wildlife Conservation.
The death of a Magnificent Tusker - and a call to action
This article and call to action is prompted by the terrible news of a magnificent tusker, "Parakrama", who was killed last week while being translocated, a practice that has led to numerous other heart-breaking elephant tragedies in Sri Lanka. Our readers may remember the story of "the lone battle of a four-legged Brigadiere," for example, who after being translocated, took to the sea, was towed in by the Navy, only to be found dead weeks later having fallen into a well. Like the "Brigadiere", the death of Parakrama has led to headlines around the world, and on Sri Lanka: Tusker tragedy prompts calls for safer transportation and Death of a tusker.
At the time of the incident, we felt that the news of Parakrama's death was just too upsetting to share through ElephantVoices. On reflection, however, and after many emails back and forth with our Sri Lankan colleagues, we decided to post one of many articles last week on Facebook. Parakrama, one of the country's few remaining tuskers, had been called a "National Treasure." His death is a symbol of Sri Lanka's many elephant conservation and welfare woes, and his passing at the hands of the Department of Wildlife Conservation must serve as a wake-up call. Accidents can happen, of course, but in our opinion there are far too many mistakes being made in the management of Sri Lanka's elephants.
No more superficial fixes - long-term solutions needed
More than 50 people and 228 elephants, an estimated 5% of the remaining wild population, were killed last year as a consequence of conflict. Translocating one elephant after another around the country, putting up fences that cause elephants to starve, and "resettling" elephants by driving them to new locations will not solve the problem. Human-elephant conflict is a land use issue that cannot be solved by piecemeal actions of the Department of Wildlife Conservation alone, especially when inspired by misled political pressure. There is an urgent need to come up with long-term solutions, which can only be found by engaging the country's many experienced conservationists, scientists, veterinarians and naturalists as well as individuals representing the Ministries governing land, settlement, agriculture, water and forestry. Lasting solutions must be found and new policies set for land use in order to halt Sri Lanka's further decline into a destructive cycle of violence between people and elephants - with elephants the ultimate losers.
Elephants will continue to try to live in the manner in which they have evolved. Therefore we urge the authorities to include elephant behaviour and movements patterns, and the role they play in maintaining healthy ecosystems, as a starting point. With open dialogue and a more holistic and compassionate approach Sri Lanka can find workable solutions for the country's wild elephant population that offers hope for a better, kinder, more sustainable future for people as well as elephants. With the current World Bank project focusing on these issues there is no better time than the present to formulate new policies.
Sri Lanka's elephants and the people of Sri Lanka deserve and need to co-exist in a mutually beneficial way. Parakrama's death must not be in vain.
Please write to Basil Rajapaksa and S. M. Chandrasena to express your concerns: Basil Rajapaksa, Minister of Economic Development, Ministry of Economic Development Presidential Secretariat Colombo 1 Office: Jagath/Aruna - for meetings/appointments, tel: +94-11-2333268, Fax: +94-11-2438045, E-mail: arunakgap(at)yahoo.com), Political Secretary, tel: 94-777445560
S. M. Chandrasena, Minister of Agrarian Services and Wildlife, Ministry of Agrarian Services and Wildlife. Govijana Mandiraya, Rajamalwatte, Battaramulla, Sri Lanka, Fax #: +94-11 2887480 (direct).
Better treatment of captive elephants, no more exports
The Sri Lankan Government must also introduce legislation to protect elephants in captivity, as such laws are currently lacking. For example, the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage has become a haphazard breeding ground for elephants without proper plans for the future well being of these individuals. People in high places have taken decisions that have led to these babies being abducted from their Pinnawala mothers and gifted to temples or individuals, or sent to the Dehiwala Zoo in Colombo.
Many of the privately owned elephants are malnourished, lonely and abused. Those in the Dehiwala Zoo stand restrained, on concrete, biting their chains, straining against them and swaying in stereotypic behavior. Some of these individuals have been routinely shuffled about between facilities while others have been exported to foreign zoos with callous disregard for the special bonds that exist between elephants.
Since 2002 baby elephants have been shipped to zoos in China, Japan, Croatia and the Republic of Korea; New Zealand is next in line. US Zoos, too, including the National Zoo in Washington DC, are now eyeing Pinnawala as a source of elephants to fill their new exhibits. Indeed Minister Rajapaksa, himself, handed over the babies in Korea. Are foreign zoos really an appropriate destination for baby elephants, an Appendix I listed species, who should be properly cared for on Sri Lanka? We urge the Sri Lanka authorities to address these issues putting the well being of individual elephants before profit and politics. Elephants are intelligent, emotional and social beings not mere commodities to "gift" and do with what we will.
These photos are taken in Dehiwala Zoo (National Zoological Gardens, Colombo) during the last two years, most of them in August 2010. The smallest elephant, Indi, was abducted from her mother in Pinnawala. Joe, the only African elephant, is separated from the others by a wall, which he must reach over to obtain the physical contact fundamental to an elephant's wellbeing. The photographs speak for themselves of the desperation and pain these individuals suffer day in and day out.
The new World Bank project mentioned in the article linked from the screenshot to the right could very well be an important milestone in the efforts towards conserving Sri Lanka's elephants for future generations. On the other hand - new roads through protected areas without proper environmental assessment is yet another serious threat to Sri Lanka's elephants and sensitive ecosystems. As a side note it could be said that the title "The road to destroying natural ecosystems" easily could have been seen covering the ongoing discussion about a proposed new road through Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. Hopefully both the Sri Lankan and Tanzanian governments will realize what's at stake before it is too late. Both countries have a lot to lose!
Do any of the Honorable Commissioners really believe that an animal as enormous and powerful as an elephant can be made to follow "guidance" by merely waving a small stick with a metal hook and point? The only reason why an elephant can be "guided" by a bullhook is because she was trained with its sharp steel point and hook and is reminded frequently of the pain it can inflict if she disobeys. By its very nature, a bullhook is a negative re-enforcer - causing the elephant to move away from the source of pain. Rewards are positive re-enforcers. In an article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after the voting Andrew Smith, of the Elephant Managers Association, demonstrates clearly that he does not know the difference between positive and negative re-enforcement. Strange.
Many of you will have already heard the excellent news that the shipment of animals, including two elephant calves, from Zimbabwe to a North Korean zoo has been called off - thanks to concerted effort by many individuals and groups, both internationally and in Zimbabwe.
Our sincere thanks goes out to all of you - organisations and individuals – for adding your names to the weight of opposition to what would have been a disastrous arrangement for those animals!
The Zimbabwean authorities have said that arrangement was genuinely intended to raise urgently needed funds for habitat conservation, in particular cutting fire-breaks in Hwange National Park, where most of the animals had been captured. Furthermore, they have stated that they do not intend to undertake another capture of this nature.
However, this Statement of Reassurance is still not confirmed in writing – it is something that, together with other organisations and individuals, we are trying to secure. We see it as vital that this objective is achieved, partly since it is known that several other countries have expressed their interest in obtaining wild animals from Zimbabwe.
In the meantime there was an urgent need to ensure that the majority of the captured animals were released back into the wild as soon as possible. This operation took place a week ago coordinated by the Tikki Hywood Trust. The giraffe and zebra are being taken to a private game farm within Zimbabwe.
Unfortunately, the two juvenile elephants cannot be released immediately. Instead, they are going to be integrated into a group of other rescued elephants, at Wild Horizons Wildlife Trust - with the intention of releasing the group to the wild when they are ready to survive independently. This may take several years.
Releasing/caring for these animals, and the two elephants in particular, obviously carries a significant cost. The total of US$27,000 is made up of:
Immediate release of most of the wild-caught animals $3,000
Two years care for the 2 young elephants $24,000 ($6,000 per annum per elephant)
Together with Born Free Foundation and Tikki Hywood Trust we are currently reaching out to people and organizations that might be able to help in covering these costs. If you are in the position to contribute PLEASE contact Shelley(at-sign)bornfree.org.uk, Andrina(at-sign)bornfree.org.uk or Stephen(at-sign)bornfree.org.uk.
Once we have the assurance that Zimbabwe is banning the practice of capturing and exporting wild animals, we will try to raise funds for the much needed maintenance of fire-breaks in Hwange National Park. Many thousands of wild animals could be affected by devastating fires in Hwange if these fire-breaks are not kept up - and due to financial constraints in Zimbabwe the wildlife authorities do not have the resources to cover these costs themselves.
We congratulate the Zimbabwean authorities for considering the lives of these animals and cancelling their export to North Korea. We urge them to permanently ban the practice of animal capture for captivity - doing so would win Zimbabwe significant goodwill around the world.