Welfare

In the spirit of The Elephant Charter, and global recognition of the need for elephant sanctuary, ElephantVoices has developed a short document describing our perspective on "sanctuary" for elephants, and the overall principles we believe such sanctuary must be based upon. You can read and download Sanctuary for Elephants - Overall Principles, on this page.

Although elephants are highly adaptable to a broad range of conditions in the wild, they are ill-adapted to captivity. Research into wild elephant biology has revealed the true range of elephant capabilities and the normal physical and social conditions in which elephants thrive. These conditions are rarely, if ever, met in traditional forms of captivity. While animal welfare is increasingly configured in terms of "5 Freedoms", for captive elephants two of them - freedom to express normal behaviour and freedom from fear and distress - are particularly problematic.

Elephants have been held in captivity for various purposes for thousands of years. They are seen by many as a natural resource to be exploited to meet human needs. Elephants are put to work in forestry enterprises, religious institutions, tourism, circuses and zoos, and serve as subjects for captive propagation programs. The failure to meet the physical, social and cognitive interests of elephants in captivity, is manifest.

ElephantVoices is frequently engaged with people and organisations wanting to provide rescue and sanctuary for elephants, as it relates to our mission and to the principles of The Elephant Charter, of which we are authors and signatories. The Sanctuary for Elephants document is meant to be of help to anyone involved in such discussions, where ever they may take place.

Letter Below you will find selected statements and testimonies in regard to elephant welfare. The facts and arguments presented are based on decades of scientific research.

You may also want to look through our Document Download Center, and visit The Elephant Charter.

Elephants in the wild

Elephants in sanctuaries

Elephants in zoos

Elephants in circuses

Joyce returned on 29 August from a hectic trip to Chicago where she presented her icon Testimony to Chicago City Council about elephants in Chicaco Zoo. (90.9 kB) regarding the proposed Elephant Protection Ordinance to Chicago City Council Committee on Parks and Recreation.

The ordinance, which proposes substantial increase in the space requirement for displaying captive elephants, would effectively make it almost impossible for zoos and circuses to comply in urban Chicago. There was wide coverage in the media including several TV channels and newspapers.

Joyce concluded that zoos would have to revolutionize their elephant exhibits in order to meet the interests and well being of elephants. Due to the size requirements this would probably mean that only a few "zoos" would be able to display elephants. If people want to see these magnificent animals, they would have to make a special effort, just as a huge number of Americans do to today to visit Yosemite National Park, Grand Canyon or other natural wonders.

Some media reports suggested that Joyce stated that zoos have no educational value. This is not the case, but Joyce did say that children can learn more about elephants through television documentaries than by watching elephants in a small enclosure engaged in very little natural behavior. She also said that with modern technology surely we could create a wild elephant-based virtual reality exhibition - rather than subjecting intelligent animals to a life of misery.

Greetings, Petter/ElephantVoices

Joyce was in Amboseli from 12-24 April, mainly working on the new ATE digital elephant ID database and the upcoming Amboseli book.
(©ElephantVoices)
Project manager Soila Sayialel, Robert Sayialel and Norah Njiraini working with the ID database in "Echo Romeo Hotel", ATE's field office i Amboseli

In general the book, The Amboseli Elephants: A long-term perspective on a long-lived mammal, has been close to an all consuming task during the last few months. The book will present the accumulated findings of more than 30 years of research on the Amboseli elephant population. Almost 20 scientists who have been involved in the Amboseli project over the years are contributing to what will be a vital source of information for people interested in or working with elephants.

With our contributions to the Amboseli book soon off our hands we plan to use more energy on the development of the elephant communication database on ElephantVoices.

Elephantvoices' FAQ about elephants in captivity was updated in the beginning of July. The changes are mainly related to the first ten questions/answers. Some more documents are linked, and also included in the welfare documents page. Among these are the resent updated version of ATE's statement about elephants in circuses.

Some good news: Today we learned that icon the statement (161.77 kB) we prepared late last year arguing against the capture of wild elephants for elephant back safaris has been successfully used in a South African court case to protect elephants.

We are on behalf of all elephants also happy that African governments reached an agreement during the last CITES meeting in the Hague that gives a nine year ban on further ivory trade. You can read more about the long and controversial "ivory saga" here.

We are soon off on our summer holiday with our eager seafarer, Malita, and wish you all a pleasant and relaxed summer!


Greetings, Petter/ElephantVoices
Joyce and Petter will be on an ATE/ElephantVoices lecture and fundraising tour in the US from 29th January to 12 February. Lectures, presentations and meetings in San Francisco (15/16), Bozeman - Museum of the Rockies (17), Big Sky - Ophir School (18), Jackson Hole (18 - 20, public lecture 20th at National Museum of Wildlife Art, San Francisco (24 - 26) and Los Angeles (27) are on their tight schedule. They will also visit PAWS.

Greetings, Petter/ElephantVoices

Joyce is travelling to South Africa on 7th November to attend a workshop in Pretoria, South Africa, on 8th November to discuss the draft Norms and Standards that will set policy for future elephant management in the country. This workshop will be dealing solely with issues relating to captive elephants.

The workshop is being held by the Department of Environment and Tourism to provide the "elephant industry" (trainers and elephant back safari operators), animal welfare groups and elephant scientists a platform to present information and evidence to be considered in the setting of protocols. Joyce has been invited to participate as an elephant ethologist and will be presenting evidence as to why South Africa should outlaw the capture of wild elephants and put an end to the training of elephants for circuses and elephant back safaris.

Greetings, Petter/ElephantVoices

Hi all,

We thought you might be interested in reading a piece which appeared in The Sunday Independent (South Africa) on the culling of elephants, on May 11, 2008. See also this, and icon AERP 2006. Statement on culling of elephants. (127.02 kB).

SA government is misusing science to turn elephants into commodities

This month, the South African government will put into effect a plan authorising the lethal management of elephants. After a 14-year moratorium, culling - systematic killing - will be allowed in the name of conservation. The decision claims justification from a 476-page report drafted by a group of scientists convened to discuss the state of elephants. Yet this decision is based on a false reading of the evidence. Science does not support the assertion that elephants are imperilling biodiversity and are widely hazardous to human safety.

Unlike other African nations, almost all the elephants in South Africa are impounded behind fences in parks and reserves with little direct human contact. The report admits that elephants pose negligible threats to public safety. Far from destroying their environment, there is no substantive evidence that elephant effects on habitat and other species are other than localised and reversible. Indeed, more robust evidence shows that elephants play an essential positive role in maintaining ecosystem health and function. The claim that elephants are overpopulated is also spurious. Elephants are on the verge of being lost, their survival doubtful.

Humans have expanded into nearly all areas of elephant habitat. Present populations are merely a fraction of what existed before European colonisation and today, elephants exist only in meagre pockets. There is barely half the number of elephants in Africa than there were 20 years ago. Their devastation has gone so far as to trigger lasting genetic changes, including - in extreme cases - tusklessness. Humans have out-competed nature: mass killings and restricted space have created conditions that undermine elephants' ability to function normally.

Under pressure to resume ivory and skin sales and expand private ownership of live animals, the South African government has misused science and turned elephants into commodities. Treating science selectively to achieve political and economic ends is bad enough; worse is the disregard for those whom they are proposing to kill. "Whom" is accurate, for after decades of study the criteria once used to distinguish critically between elephants and humans and thus rationalise their subordination are not valid. Elephants, like humans, have culture, stunning intelligence, complex communication, vocal learning, episodic memory and show intention and self-awareness. They feel grief and other strong emotions. Tragically, we now know that elephants can even experience psychological disorders.

A year and a half ago the New York Times Magazine reported in icon Are we driving elephants crazy? (5.72 MB) that infant elephants who witness the death of culled mothers and family grow up to become unprecedented "serial killers", in separate cases killing over 100 endangered white and black rhinoceroses and attacking one another and people. As with human children who experience war, elephant orphans have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Further, wild elephants are exhibiting other trauma-induced disorders that transmit and promulgate across generations. Stressed mother elephants show depression and indifference to their infants in distress.

When elephants and humans are put side by side, researchers are hard-pressed to come up with significantly meaningful differences in terms of brain, behaviour, emotion and mind. By force of its own evidence, science shows elephants to be sufficiently like ourselves to necessitate an ethical status rather than being treated as depersonalised commodities. Neuroscientists, ethologists, ecologists and psychologists concur that the proposal to commodify and control elephants through killing undermines conservation of the species and their ecosystems. The only urgent elephant problem in South Africa is the need to save them from certain destruction. There are multiple options and intermediate steps to improve life for elephants and their landscapes. These choices work with, not against, ecological processes for the renewal of elephant society as it once was: a great civilisation. The creation of protected corridors that allow elephants to move across landscapes is one way that would alleviate pressures on ecosystems in fenced, isolated reserves. Small private reserves are essentially large zoos resembling more closely captive conditions. Integration, not separation (a cross-species echo of apartheid), allows people to develop coexistence with elephants, as they did before colonial pressures and values subjugated both human and animal communities.

The decision to cull brings humankind to a momentous choice: do we defend science or do we allow it to be manipulated like the elephants under the guise of a righteous cause? We reel in horror from the legacies of human "culls" genocides, ethnic cleansing and wars that humans visit upon each other, also in the name of a good cause. In the face of our best and brightest research, can we knowingly inflict this on another species? Will we continue to lurch down the path of extinctions and violence? Or will we, once and for all, reject killing as an inevitable choice to solve our problems?

GA Bradshaw, PhD, The Kerulos Centre, United States
Keith Lindsay
, PhD, Amboseli Elephant Research Project, Kenya
Dr Dame Daphne Sheldrick, DBE MBE MBS DVMS, Kenya
Allan N. Schore
, PhD, UCLA, US
Cynthia Moss, director, Amboseli Elephant Research Project, Kenya
Joyce Poole
, PhD, Elephant Voices, Kenya
Lori Marino, PhD, Emory University, US
Ian Redmond, OBE, Ape Alliance, Britain
Marc Bekoff
, PhD, University of Colorado, US
Will Travers
, CEO, The Born Free Foundation, UK and US

Hi this is Joyce again,

It has been a very hectic period because we are trying to complete a year end newsletter for our friends and supporters, and also to prepare all of our playback stimulus "tapes" before we leave for the field early Friday 14th December.

But I did promise to say something about the case against Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus for which I am an expert witness. You may wonder why a scientist interested in elephant cognition, social behavior, communication and conservation gets involved in a legal case against a circus. The more that we learn about the social complexity and intelligence of elephants, the harder it is to ignore the mistreatment of them - wherever it occurs. My research and understanding of elephants in the wild has led me to advocate on behalf of both wild and captive elephants in many different forums and contexts on issues such as the ivory trade and culling, and the abuse and mistreatment of elephants used for “entertainment.

Dear friends,

I just received an email outlining the plight of wildlife in Zimbabwe. I am going to post it here in case any of you can follow up. I am trying to find out where you can send donations...but for now I have only an email or website. I just cut and pasted so the photos didn't come through....

"ZIMBABWE CONSERVATION TASK FORCE 15th June 2008

As the economic situation rapidly deteriorates in Zimbabwe, we are receiving reports that poaching is escalating at an alarming rate. Five white rhino have recently been killed by poachers. 3, including a baby, were shot in the Chivero National Park. Prior to this, the rhino population in Chivero has always been very well protected and these are the first rhino that have ever been killed in this area. The other 2 were also shot in a National Park but we have not yet confirmed the exact location. We are receiving reports that elephants are being shot regularly in the Kariba area. One informant reported that he personally knows of 18 that have been shot this year. A fortnight ago, poachers shot a zebra and 3 cows at Imire Safari Ranch.

The number of animals caught in wire snares is increasing and there is a shortage of the drug needed to tranquilize the animals in order to remove the snares. Many animals are therefore dying an agonizing, lingering death. Some elephants that are part of the Presidential Herd in Hwange have been sighted with wire snares on them. As the tranquilizer is not readily available, it is not possible to remove the snares and some of these elephants are now presumed dead. In 2005, we raised funds to purchase 12 vials of M99, the drug required to tranquilize the larger animals. One vial is sufficient to tranquilize approximately 4 elephants or possibly 8 buffalo.

Thanks to the people and organizations who assisted us with funds, numerous animals of all species have been saved but our supplies are now depleted. These are photos of a small selection of the snare removals that have been carried out using this drug.

SNARE REMOVED FROM A ZEBRA SNARE REMOVED FROM A BUFFALO SNARE REMOVED FROM AN ELEPHANT The drug, which is not available in Zimbabwe, costs R2 200 or USD300 per vial and we are urgently appealing for assistance in replenishing our stocks. If anyone is able to help, please contact us - contact details below.

Johnny Rodrigues
Chairman for Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force
Landline: 263 4 336710 Landline/Fax: 263 4 339065 Mobile: 263 11 603 213
Email: galorand@mweb.co.zw
Website: www.zctf.mweb.co.zw
Website: www.zimbabwe-art.com"

The traditional bullhook used to control an elephant in Thailand (Photo credit Robert Poole). ElephantVoices' standpoint is that this instrument contributes to misery for elephants held captive, for with it elephants are trained and controlled. In August Joyce will travel to Washington DC to give her deposition the case against Ringling Brothers for its treatment of elephants. Preparations have taken literally months of work. Joyce is also likely to go back in October when the court case takes place. The basis for all of the contributions we make toward the interests of elephants is our long term studies of wild elephants.

Some people try to argue that elephants held captive are different from wild elephants because they are domesticated. There are two uses of the term domesticated - one meaning "of the household" and the other a biological one. It is the biological one that is important and in this sense there is no such thing as domesticated elephants. All species of modern elephants are capable of being - and routinely have been - habituated and tamed by humans. They remain, nevertheless, wild animals.

Some of you have seen the responses (online or in person) of Ruby, Maggie, Mara and Lulu to some elephant sounds that I played to them when Petter and I visited Ark2000 on 15 November for a joint fundraiser for PAWS and ElephantVoices. Their responses were so strong that some people have been concerned that the sounds were upsetting to the girls.

I want to take a moment here to address that concern. Over the years we have been approached a few times by people who have wanted to use some of the calls in our collection as enrichment for elephants in zoos. I have been reluctant to allow our recordings for this purpose because I have felt that people who didn’t understand the calls or the responses of the elephants to them could misuse them. I also feel that elephants are smart enough to figure out pretty quickly that the sounds are just a ploy – that there aren’t any real elephant out there to be companions - and then playing them is just unkind.

The situation at PAWS was different because I was there, able to monitor the elephants, along with Pat, Ed, and all the others who work with these individuals and know their behavior and responses so well. Also, having watched these elephants in the past, I knew I was dealing with individuals who were relaxed and well integrated and, in particular, were elephants who had one another’s companionship and support to rely on.


Joyce playing sounds for PAWS elephants. (©ElephantVoices)

Petter and I played several sounds to the PAWS elephants. The first was a musth rumble (made only by sexually active males), followed by a mating pandemonium (the excitement that follows a mating), and then a sequence in which a calf screamed (because a lion jumped on it) which was immediately followed by the angry sounds of mother elephants threatening the lion and calling in members of their family for support.

So how did Ruby, Maggie, Mara and Lulu respond to these sounds?

When the musth rumble was played:
Maggie and Mara were near fence and were very relaxed until the sound is played. They lifted their heads, Mara folded her ears (a threat) and they first ran away (they were taken by surprise by a sound nearby that they didn’t expect) and then Mara turned toward the speaker. She whirled and trumpeted with excitement (Not with fear) and they all ran together, spun around, trumpeted and rumbled (throaty and modulated sound – typical excited rumble) and then some of the elephants urinated. This is typical of a high level excited response of females to the sound of a musth rumble in the wild. The manner in which they spun around together showed how bonded they are.

When the mating pandemonium was played:
The four elephants were some distance off. They listened to the sounds of many elephants and appeared not sure what to do. They started to walk away, then stopped. Ruby was in the front and was contemplating what to do. She turned her head from one side to the other trying to localize/ understand the source of the sound. She appeared unsure of what to do.

When the scream and antipredator rumbles were played:
As soon as the calf screamed, Ruby paid attention. As the mother elephants began their loud roaring rumbles, Ruby came forward and then charged uphill toward the sound and stood tall (aggressive) near the fence. Then she ran back to the other elephants and backed into them. They trumpeted and bunch in a defensive formation. Ruby charged uphill again and gave a trumpet blast – as might be given toward a predator. All the elephants moved away in a bunched formation. They held their heads high with their trunks curled under in an apprehensive posture.

The elephants heard a calf in danger and the sounds of other elephants threatening a predator and calling for help. They responded just as they would in the wild – with alarm and then with anger. Ruby showed real leadership - she acted like a mother and a matriarch in the situation and came to the defence of the group – exactly the kind of response that one would expect to see in the wild.

While it may be rare for captive elephants to react so strongly to a stimulus, the responses were very typical of wild elephants and we were able to observe a range of reactions from high-level social excitement to fierce defence. In the wild when we do playback experiments we hope for reactions like this. I have many videos of elephants running from sounds, bunching, charging and some in which they do not respond with more than listening behavior. Playbacks are a tool for learning what these sounds mean.

The elephants’ responses showed just what a strong leader Ruby (from LA Zoo) has becomes and how tight the bonds are between the four elephants. PAWS can be extremely proud of the work they have done to facilitate the development of this family unit.

Trumpets, Joyce

We are once more getting close to the opening day of the legal case against Ringling Brothers Circus for their mistreatment of elephants, in which Joyce is one of the expert witnesses. The case has been mentioned a few times, the first being February 2007.

We hope that the case will go according to plan this time, and that it will be concluded with a positive outcome for elephants. The legal case against Ringling Brothers has been followed by the media for many years - this news piece on CBS4 from 4 January 2006 is one of very many examples.

Cheers, Petter

Joyce is currently in Washington DC to testify as expert witness in the legal case against Ringling Brothers Circus. She will be in court as the first witness tomorrow, Wednesday February 4th. The courtroom is open to the public.

The New York Times are among media that covers the suit - this article is from January 31st.

Over the last year ElephantVoices has focused a lot of attention on the development of a three-year project that will contribute toward finding solutions and tools to mitigate human elephant conflict. Petter, Hamisi Mutinda, and Joyce together wrote a proposal on behalf of the Amboseli Elephant Research Project that has recently received financial support from the US Fish and Wildlife, Born Free Foundation and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). The project will be executed in affiliation with Kenya Wildlife Service and in close collaboration with Centre for Wildlife Management of the School for Field Studies. Petter will as main project initiater and member of its Steering Committee chaired by a KWS representative continue to follow the project, and be responsible for reporting to funding bodies and further grant proposals.

The kick-off of the project took place on 1 August with Winnie Kiiru as Project Manager and John Kioko as Project Researcher. Updates from the project will be included under the ElephantVoices Tools in Conservation section/HEC or Harmony, The Big Challenge.

The ability of a rapidly growing population of people to co-exist in relative harmony with wildlife is of major importance for the future of Amboseli’s elephants, as it is in most areas of the world that still boast populations of the world’s largest land mammal.

Cheers, Petter/ElephantVoices

Petter departs for Kenya and Amboseli for a two-week visit on 23rd August, mainly to work with the ongoing project, “Mitigating human-elephant conflict in the Amboseli Ecosystem

The ElephantVoices team visited both the National Zoo in Washington, DC and the Oakland Zoo, outside San Francisco, in the beginning of January 2006. While the National Zoo has a long way to go before they can offer decent conditions for their elephants, the Oakland Zoo has been able to offer significantly more space and enrichment activities that has led to a much more satisfying situation. Protected contact (physical barriers between the elephants and keepers) furthermore means a relaxed and respectful atmosphere, without intrusive activities for negative re-enforcement and risk- and stress-factors so often related to “Free Contact

A US Department of Agriculture (USDA) petition focusing on the physical and mental health consequences of lack of space for captive elephants has recently been filed by In Defense of Animals (IDA). ElephantVoices’ Joyce Poole, as one of the experts, provided a icon declaration (Citizen petition) (115.33 kB) about this vital issue for captive elephants.

An estimated half of all captive elephants suffer from arthritis and foot disease, and these ailments are the leading cause of euthanasia in captive elephants. The focus on space has led to an outcry by the zoo industry that continues to express that elephants are doing fine in tiny enclosures allotted to them, despite a wealth of empirical evidence to the contrary. It is difficult to understand why zoos continue to repeat this mantra, since most zoo elephants are, de facto, suffering from substantial mental and physical health problems as a consequence. You may want to visit our FAQ about some of these issues.

On 25 January, Toni, a 40-year-old Asian elephant at the National Zoo was euthanized. The ElephantVoices team visited Toni in Washington DC 3 weeks before, and witnessed an elephant in very poor condition. (See previous news update, and icon Poole, J. 2006. ElephantVoices statement regarding Toni at the National Zoo, Washington DC. (374.34 kB) Toni was a grim example of what a life in captivity can lead to. Toni had experienced and well-meaning people around her, but her “home

It's been rather quiet from us for some time, though not caused by a lack of activities or events. After a fantastic Norwegian summer and a lot of traveling from late August until a few days ago, we are now nailed down to our office chairs working on different important documents.

The main focus over the next couple of months will be work related to finalizing chapters for the upcoming book The Amboseli Elephants, A long-term perspective on a long-lived mammal. This book will present the findings accumulated over more than 30 years of research on the Amboseli elephant population. We hope that it will be available in late 2007 (University of Chicago Press). During a ten day visit to Amboseli with other ATE colleagues in August/September most of Joyce's time was allocated to the preparation of this book.

In addition to the book completion, elephant advocacy and welfare work continue to be high on the agenda. In mid September Joyce went to the US, where among other meetings she visited the Elephant Sanctuary in Nashville, Tennessee. In December 2005 she visited PAWS/Ark2000 in San Andreas, California. Both sanctuaries represent a safe haven for retired, rescued and/or abused elephants, and even though no-one can replicate a life in the wild these sanctuaries represent a great alternative for many of Americas circus and zoo elephants.


Above left: Joyce meets elephants at the Elephant Sanctuary. Middle: Carol Buckley, Elephant Sanctuary Director, Joyce and Deb Forthman. Right: Joyce and one of PAWS' eight elephants study one another, with PAWS director Pat Derby standing by.

Joyce and Petter will be in Amboseli for a four-week field trip in December/January, mainly recording and shooting photo/video for our communication study.

Greetings, Petter/ElephantVoices

THE CAPTURE OF ELEPHANT CALVES FOR ELEPHANT BACK SAFARIS AND CIRCUSES

Joyce flew to South Africa on 7/11 to attend a one day meeting on 8/11 organized by the Department of Environment and Tourism (DEAT) to discuss the capture from the wild and training of elephants for elephant back safaris and circuses. The object of the meeting was for DEAT to hear the differing opinions of the "Elephant Industy", animal welfare and elephant experts and to incorporate these into the revised Norms and Standards for the Management of South Africa's Elephants.

Joyce was invited to present her opinions as an elephant expert. This is the same process as the public discussions revolving around the culling (killing for population control) of elephants. Culling has received considerable international attention, but the public has been largely unaware of the inhumane treatment of elephants that goes on in the name of elephant back safaris. People have probably been unaware, too, that South Africa has circus elephants. On 12th November DEAT announced that it had decided that captive elephants don't come under their jurisdiction, rather they come under the Animal Protection Act. Unfortunately the APA is, apparently, notoriously weak.

At the moment the draft Norms and Standards will continue to allow the capture of elephants (calves taken from their families) and the training of these individuals for the "Elephant Industry". As yet the Minister is not aware of the negative impact that the continuation of these outdated practices may have on South Africa's image internationally. We're still trying to influence the final decision in this important matter. You will find our statements and letters related to this issue here.

EXPERT WITNESS IN CASE AGAINST CIRCUS

One example of the advocacy work Joyce does is her involvement as an expert witness in a lawsuit brought by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, The Animal Welfare Institute, The Fund for Animals, The Animal Protection Institute, and a former Ringling Brothers’ employee, Tom Rider, who worked as a barn man with the elephants for two and a half years, against Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus and Feld Entertainment (Ringling Brothers) for violations of the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The Asian elephants used by the circus are endangered species and the consortium argues that by chaining elephants and using bullhooks on them Ringling Brothers is violating U.S. law, which prohibits any conduct that “takes

Many of you have seen or heard that the South African Government has taken some major decisions regarding the future management of the country's elephants. These are detailed in a document entitled the Norms and Standards for Elephant Management in South Africa. The good news is that from 1st May 2008 the capture of wild elephants for commercial exhibition purposes, such as elephant back safari industries or circuses, will be prohibited.

In his speech on TV the Environment Minister unequivocally stated that they were "putting the lid" on the elephant back safari industry and that although no existing operation would be shut down, all operators would have to abide by standards for the care of elephants. The Minister has included a provision for an appendix to be developed in 12 months for "Minimum Standards" for the existing 112 or so captive elephants. Furthermore, the Norms and Standards will also prohibit the import and export of elephants destined for captivity, and will prevent artificial breeding of elephants in captivity.

Joyce and ElephantVoices have been involved in the discussions surrounding culling and capture/training of elephants in South Africa over many years. In 2006 Joyce and Petter were among signatories on a statement on culling by the Amboseli Trust for Elephants. Joyce has also been closely involved in the debate surrounding the capture and training of wild calves - first in the Tuli case, for which Joyce appeared in court in 1998 on behalf of the elephants, then in the Selati case in 2006. Most recently, Joyce was invited as an expert to attend a workshop in November 2007 held by the Environment Ministry to discuss the development of the Norms and Standards. She followed up with an open letter to the Minister.

The Ministry of Environment has agreed to many of the recommendations made. That they have prohibited the capture of wild elephants for the captive market, have prohibited the import and export of wild elephants destined for captivity, and have prohibited the artificial breeding of elephants in captivity is certainly a positive step for elephants. Furthermore, the Ministry has said that culling will be a management tool of last resort. Although the media is focused on the reopening of culling, we believe that South Africa's approach to elephants has come a very long way from the early 1990s.

The open process of discussion and the genuine change in outlook and opinions is a positive development, despite the fact that some conclusions of the document go against our wishes. The bottom line, in our view, is that until we, human beings, accept to draw real limits on our own population expansion and consequent resource requirements (and emissions), we will be forced into unethical practices. The culling of elephants is only one of many. Are we ever going to accept any limits on our behavior and use of resources?

Rumblings, Petter and Joyce

Hi all,

There has been a lot of activity on this blog over the last few days and some of it has centered around elephants in zoos. People who love elephants have strong feelings on this topic, some for and some against zoos. There is a lot of rhetoric on both sides and much of it is not supported by the facts. We chose our name, ElephantVoices, for two reasons - because we study the voices of elephants and because we aim to be a voice for the interests of elephants. After spending many, many years observing elephants in the wild, I think that we have a better idea than most about what elephants enjoy doing - if they are free to pursue their own activities.

In our view, the traditional zoo cannot meet the interests of elephants for reasons that we have laid out in an essay we wrote entitled, icon Mind and Movement: Meeting the Interests of Elephants (2.19 MB). The point to remember is that we are not keeping elephants in zoos to meet their individual or collective needs, but our own. When it comes to elephants, it cannot be argued that we are breeding them in captivity as an insurance policy against extinction - since it is much more effective biologically, reproductively and economically to ensure their survival in the wild. And it is certainly better for them as individuals to live wild rather than captive lives.

We keep elephants in zoos to meet our need to see them. It may also be fair to argue that we keep them there to act as ambassadors for elephants in the wild, though based on my experience, websites and TV documentaries offer significantly more real education than do the signs at the elephant enclosures at zoos. Often the elephants we see in zoos are poor, bewildered and broken down creatures with behavior far from what we consider real elephant behavior.

So the question for us really is this: What level of individual elephant sacrifice, if you will, is OK so that we can have the pleasure of their presence in our zoos? My feeling is that we should offer elephants close to what they have in the wild - in terms of physical, mental and social stimulation. The truth is that we are far from this. There is a push to make bigger yards for elephants, but in our view these fall square kilometers (or miles) short of what is OK. The $40-60 million dollars price tag would be better spent on an advanced multi-media theatre with a webcam connected directly to a field study supported by the zoo, where a field worker frequently is on hand to introduce us to individual elephants and explain their complex lives to us. Such an elephant reality show would be true education and entertainment for people and conservation for elephants wrapped into one. The running costs would be minimal compared to what it costs to house one or a few elephants.

We'd like to add that we do not want to belittle the efforts of those trying to make a difference for individual elephants in captivity, whether they are paid or volunteers. But with the interest of elephants at heart we deeply believe that a traditional zoo cannot offer them what they deserve and need.

Trumpets, Joyce and Petter

Elephants  and Ethics - The scientific EvidenceSome of you may want to read the book Elephants and Ethics: Toward a Morality of Coexistence.

Together with Cynthia Moss Joyce has authored a chapter called "Elephant sociality and complexity: The scientific evidence."

Cheers, Petter

Comments from TheTeach on a previous ElephantVoices post have inspired me to post a few reflections.

What each and one of us have to do is to decide what we believe in - which values we want to stand and fight for - which attitudes we want to show towards other creatures like elephants. But in the industrialized world we can afford to think like this. In many poor countries millions of people have a different reality in their everyday life - they're struggling to survive. Human-elephant conflicts and destruction of habitat often symbolizes that we're not able to accept certain limitations in terms of resources and land - and that local politicians and the global community not have been able to find the balance between the needs of people and other animals. Bad governance, corruption and lack of land use planning and/or it's implementation are often strongly contributing factors, but let me not go into that.

Photo from Joyce and Petter visit to Thailand  February 2006. (©ElephantVoices)It's "unpolitical" to talk about the lack of political drive worldwide to discuss and deal with the human population growth, but from my perspective this topic will have to come higher on the agenda if we want to keep elephants (and other wildlife) for future generations. Poverty reduction is another key, closely connected to population growth. Elephants are certainly also about tourism and revenue, and thereby work places and economical growth, so in principle we would all gain on conserving them. OK - let me stay out of more politics for now - and go back to some of TheTeach's comments. Hairy  Asian elephant. (©ElephantVoices)

Since Thailand introduced anti-logging laws in 1988/89 many elephants have ended up on the streets with their mahouts. I do agree that many mahouts have a close and compassionate relationship with their elephants, but it is also a fact that the methods used to "break" the elephant to get them to do what's expected in the first place is brutal and unacceptable from an elephant welfare perspective. Some projects are working on getting street-elephants or abused elephants back to semi wild conditions - we visited one of these projects a couple of years ago. One very interesting aspect with this particular project is that they employ and retrain the mahouts as field staff, to secure them a job and also make the transition for the elephants more easy.

Another remark: Thailand probably have around 3,000 captive (so called domesticated) elephants today, and less than 2,000 wild, compared to respectively 11,000 and 30,000 fifty years ago. But such figures and percentages are symbolic for the destiny of the elephant also elsewhere.
Male flirting with females in Minneriya National Park, Sri Lanka. (©ElephantVoices)
Male elephant flirting with several females in Minneriya National Park, Sri Lanka.

Keep up your efforts TheTeach and others fighting for elephants - they need our help!

Best wishes, Petter

Having been prepared for 8 years the lawsuit against Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus and Feld Entertainment (Ringling Brothers) for violations of the U.S. Endangered Species Act, is finally going to trial starting Monday, 27 October, 2008. The suit is brought by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, The Animal Welfare Institute, The Fund for Animals, The Animal Protection Institute, and a former Ringling Brothers’ employee, Tom Rider, who worked as a barn man with the elephants for two and a half years.

Joyce is an expert witness in the trial for the plaintiffs and is scheduled to testify on Monday. The case is being heard in federal court in Washington DC, in courtroom 24A, and is expected to last for approximately three weeks. The court proceedings are open to the public.

A few hours after Joyce arrived in Washington DC she got the message that the court case mentioned in last posting is delayed, and that it may be set to spring 2009.

Flying from Norway to Washington and back in 3 days isn't the best way to spend a long weekend - but not much to do...

After almost two weeks on the road with several events and fundraisers behind us, we depart from California and Los Angeles this afternoon. We're busy packing so we don't have time for more than a very short summary of our trip.

ElephantVoices  visiting PAWS. (©ElephantVoices)The tour started with a cooking party and two other events in San Francisco, continued with a joint event at PAWS in San Andreas. You can see a video from this event here, including footage of Joyce's talk and of the responses of Ruby, Maggie, Mara and Lulu to some elephant sounds that we played to them. Their response was so strong that some people were worried that the sounds were upsetting to the girls. While it may be rare for captive elephants to react so strongly to a stimulus, the responses were very typical of wild elephants and we were able to observe a range of responses from high social excitement to fierce defence. Their response showed just what a strong leader Ruby has becomes and how tight the bonds are between the four elephants. PAWS can be extremely proud of the work they have done to facilitate the development of this family unit.

Georja Umano, Petter and JoyceWe finally had an event and fundraiser in the home of a good friend in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles, on Sunday 16th November. The last three days of our visit ended up being much more hectic than planned, mainly because of meetings and press briefings related to our involvement in discussions regarding the future of elephants, including Billy, at LA Zoo.

On Tuesday Joyce participated in a press conference arranged by councilman Tony Cardenas of Los Angeles County Council. NBC Los Angeles, CBS Los Angeles and dailybreeze.com, laist and Fox LA are among the media that have covered the case. The vote was planned for Wednesday, but after 5 intense hours on the floor it has been delayed until the first week of December. (Article in LA Times here)

Petter,  Joyce and Councilman Tony Cardenas visiting LA Zoo.

We strongly hope the LA County Council will decide to close the exhibit and send Billy to a sanctuary. An urban zoo cannot offer the space necessary for a such a large, active, social, and intelligent animal as the elephant. We're extremely grateful for all the support and help we have received during our trip - it's been exhausting but has also given us lots of new energy. We have made new friends, and hopefully created more compassion for elephants among people that we have met on our way. We look forward to keeping in touch with all of you caring for elephants. Thanks!

Petter and Joyce

A new book is on the market: An Elephant In The Room: The Science and Well-Being of Elephants in Captivity. You can buy the book from Amazon.com here.

The opening chapter in the book, Mind and Movement: Meeting the interests of elephants, is written by ElephantVoices' Joyce Poole and Petter Granli. You can download the chapter from our Document Download Center: icon Poole, J & Granli, P. 2008. Mind and Movement: Meeting the Interests of Elephants. (2.19 MB)

The Science and Well-Being of Elephants in Captivity
Cover photos by ElephantVoices' Petter Granli.

From the back cover:
"There once were about 160 species of elephants, reaching back across 60 million years. Today, only three remain, and their survival is not certain. An Elephant In The Room: The Science and Well-Being of Elephants in Captivity, authored by experts from around the world and astride many disciplines, brings a new voice to assist their future. It examines the many and perplexing difficulties of elephants in captivity, looking for the best questions and trying to provide good answers.

The book presents the biological, ecological, and social dimensions of elephant behavior in the wild as the basis for any sound understanding of what elephants want and need. It discusses the effects of trauma and stress upon elephants, with a close look at current captive management systems and beliefs. It also offers a scientific assessment of captive elephant welfare, and practical methods to improve fundamental aspects of the lives of elephants in captivity. Presentations of new and impressive initiatives in the form of orphanages and sanctuaries provide hope for the future, as do new visions that would transform the current management regimes in zoos.

Humans have over millennia caused elephants enormous anguish, and even their imminent demise. Are we also capable of saving them? Is captivity a requirement for this, and if so, what should it be like? What are the special needs of elephants? What can be done to improve their quality of life? The number of zoos giving up their elephants has been growing in recent times. More are questioning whether zoos can provide for the extraordinary demands of these extraordinary beings.

To help address this, the book concludes with a set of Best Practices: a synthesis of science and ethics to guide a healthier future for captive elephants. Anyone interested in animal welfare, and especially the welfare of elephants in captivity, will find this book essential and enlightening reading."

An Elephant in the Room: The Science and Well-being of Elephants in Captivity is available on Amazon.com.

The Performing Animal Welfare Society's (PAWS) 25th Anniversary Gala and Conference takes place at ARK2000 in San Andreas, California, from 24 to 26 April. Joyce is one of the keynote speakers, and will participate throughout the conference.  Join leading wildlife and captive wildlife experts for an interactive full 3-Day Conference!

The  Science  and Well-Being of Elephants in CaptivitySeveral have asked us where they can get a copy of the book An Elephant In The Room: The Science and Well-Being of Elephants in Captivity. You can actually get the book from Amazon.com - buy it here.

The opening chapter in the book, Mind and Movement: Meeting the interests of elephants, is written by ElephantVoices’ Joyce Poole and Petter Granli.

You may read and/or download the chapter through this link:
icon Poole, J & Granli, P. 2008. Mind and Movement: Meeting the Interests of Elephants. (2.19 MB) (Cover photos by Petter Granli, ElephantVoices.)

Part of what we do is to offer advice, opinion and scientific documentation to people who are working on the frontline trying to help elephants in need. Very often these individuals are working in situations where publicity would harm, rather than help, their cause - and, therefore, it is often impossible for us to share our progress with you. Sometimes these cases drag on for months, even years.

We are involved in several of these situations at the moment - among these is one in Zimbabwe and another in South Africa. Some of the elephants in question have been severely abused and we are doing everything we can to assist those working on the ground for their better welfare and/or their release.

We will post information as soon as we can.

 


Bullhook photograph Bob Poole in ThailandOn 22 July 2009 PETA released new undercover footage of elephants being beaten by employees of Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. Joyce has made a formal comment on this footage which can be read here: Poole, J. 2009. Statement regarding PETA recent footage Ringling Brothers Circus (93.52 kB)

The footage is completely consistent with the evidence that Joyce reviewed as an expert witness in the legal case against against this circus. The judgement is to be made in the upcoming days. The casual and repetitive manner in which the handlers strike the elephants in this recent footage shows gratuitous violence and demonstrates that such treatment is routine. This cruel and sickening treatment of elephants has no place in the 21st Century.

We have been following with concern the debate regarding Lucy, the lone female Asian elephant, housed at the Edmonton Valley Zoo, City of Edmonton in Central Canada. Lucy was captured in Sri Lanka in 1976; her records list her original name as Skanik and her birth year as 1975. By mid 1977, at an age when she should have been in the jungles of Sri Lanka, suckling from her mother, Lucy was living behind bars at the Edmonton Valley Zoo. There, in the icy cold of central Canada, she spent the next 12 years, alone, rather than living with her family, being cared for and nurtured by mother and allomothers and learning through social interactions and experiences.

In 1989, when Lucy was 14, an African elephant calf, Samantha, torn from her own family through a culling operation in Zimbabwe, was brought to the zoo. Other than a couple of occasions when Lucy was sent on (failed) breeding loans, Samantha was Lucy's only elephant companion. In 2007 Samantha was moved to North Carolina on an extended breeding loan, leaving Lucy on her own once more. Highly social, complex and intelligent, no elephant should have to live alone.

Lucy's home at the zoo is an outdoor yard of less than half an acre and a tiny indoor enclosure with a concrete floor. Due to the icy temperatures and inclement weather, Lucy is estimated to spend up to three quarters of her time indoors - on the concrete floor. At age 34 Lucy is still a young elephant, yet her health problems are myriad and are directly caused by the cold, sedentary life she has been forced to live.

Our opinion is that the Edmonton Valley Zoo must, with all urgency, allow Lucy to live out the remainder of her life in a warmer climate in a setting where she is free to roam outdoors and to interact with members of her own species. After 32 years of captive misery, Lucy deserves to be given what is in her best interests. We urge the Edmonton Valley Zoo to put her needs first, and send Lucy to California, to PAWS, where she has been offered such a home.

The text above is included in a letter to the Mayor and City Councillors of Edmonton. (Poole, J. 2009. Letter Mayor Stephan Mandel regarding Lucy in Edmonton Valley Zoo. (82.87 kB)

Hi friends,

We are trying to take our summer holiday, but between lousy weather and elephants in crisis we keep being dragged back into the office!

We are now able to release Joyce's 47-page report (115-pages with Figures and Appendices) that she wrote over the course of several years in preparation for the legal case brought against Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus for their ill-treatment of elephants. You will notice that some sections of the report have been removed since they are still under court order. In order to access this report through our Document Download Center (section Statements & Testimonies) you need to register as a user on ElephantVoices.org - but that is easy to do.

The report is full of information about elephant basic biology as well as (of course) Joyce's opinions formed from reading the depositions of Ringling employees and other witnesses, the hours of video that she reviewed as well as other evidence that was gathered.

The case was heard in February of this year and, for those of you who are following this case closely, you can access Joyce's 6-hour 188 page court testimony in the same section.

Just as the case against Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus is about to be decided, PETA was able to release new footage showing how the elephants are treated. For those of you who missed this video you can view it here - and Joyce's statement related to this recent footage here.

Ringling elephant foot Ringling elephant foot

From Joyce's expert report, Figure 7. The unhealthy soles of the feet of Ringling Brothers’ elephants are either completely smooth (left) or deeply fissured (right). The healthy soles of wild elephants are evenly worn from regular use on rough surfaces, displaying a thick (2.5 cm) of sensitive skin with a distinctive wrinkle pattern, which is individually recognizable in an elephant’s footprint.

We want to draw your attention to another situation in which cruelty toward elephants is in court - this time in South Africa.

Chained Boswell elephant.Back in March of this year Joyce was asked to view video, photographs and other evidence related to the treatment of elephants in the Natal Zoological Gardens and Brian Boswell's Circus, and to write an expert statement. Unfortunately we cannot provide the statement at this time.

In the public domain, though, is the photograph to the right - showing an Asian female elephant at the Natal Zoological Gardens chained to the cement floor in a dark, dank garage-like structure that is open to the elements on two sides. Due to her unnatural sedentary life on concrete, her toenails are overgrown and her feet are in poor condition.

The zoo and circus are both owned by Brian Boswell. The situation has now hit the press in South Africa and you can read more about it here.

On 21st April, I received an email from Glynis Vaughan of the Zimbabwe NSPCA about a second capture of 10 wild elephants (we provided an affidavit for the earlier Shearwater case). These elephants were bought by Basil Steyn of Elephant Experience in Victoria Falls for the purpose of Elephant Back Safaris.

The elephants, ranging in age from 4 to 18 years old, had actually been captured back in October 2008 but had gone undetected for six months and were being held and trained on Steyn's Sondelani Ranch. They were being housed in a metal boma (enclosure) without shade or shelter and were chained continuously, only being released for training.

Glynis was in need of people who knew wild elephant behavior and our close friend and colleague from Amboseli, Lucy Bates, is now living in South Africa. We contacted her and she agreed to go to Zimbabwe to assess the elephants together with another colleague, Karen Trendler. Thanks to their reports and the excellent work of Glynis Vaughan and the ZNSPCA team, National Parks have agreed that the elephants should be released AND that there should be no further capture of wild elephants.

Glynis and her team wanted the elephants off chains as soon aspossible but was concerned about how they would behave if they were put together in one enclosure. Based on the information I had been given about the number, ages and sexes of the elephants and their purported genetic relationships I recommended that the chains be removed and that they should all be put together - and that the only problem they might have might be from Jack a 15 year old male. But since they believed that he was from the same family I didn't think it would be a problem.

Over the weekend the ZNPCA team released all of the elephants off of their chains and let them mingle. Jack and Jessica had a "tiff" but then they all settled down and began mingling and enjoying themselves. Apparently there was a lot of talking and touching in the beginning which then led to playing and general interacting.

Sadly, one little 5 year old male, Dumusani, was too weak and unwell - likely from the long-term trauma and separation - to survive and he passed away on the evening of 28th.

In a happy twist in the story the owner of Sondelani has agreed that the elephants can be moved from his property and has said that he will never train elephants again!

ZNSPCA PRESS STATEMENT ON WILD CAPTURED ELEPHANTS HELD CAPTIVE AT SONDELANI RANCH

 

ZNSPCA are pleased to inform the international community that the ten wild elephants captured by Basil Steyn for commercial purposes are scheduled for release.

ZNSPCA would like to thank the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, Honourable Minister Nhema, the Attorney General's offices, officials from the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority for their integral role in the release of these abused elephants. We are proud of our Ministry's recognition of animal cruelty and the prevention of such acts.

Furthermore, ZNSPCA extends its gratitude to elephant specialists Karen Trendler and Dr. Lucy Bates whose reports clearly indicated that these elephants had been subjected to cruelty. We acknowledge the role of Dr. A. Dube (BVSc Zim) who carried out the veterinary inspection of the elephants. These specialists' opinions, and the ZNSPCA Inspectorate reports have paved the way for a brighter future for these elephants.

This cruel capture resulted in ZNSPCA having numerous meetings with National Parks and it has been agreed that Parks will organise workshops with relevant stakeholders in order to address loopholes and prevent such incidents re-occurring in the Country. Controls and codes of conduct for the management of the remaining wild elephants in captivity will also be put in place. ZNSPCA commends National Parks on this positive move.

These ten elephants will require rehabilitation before they are released. Following advice on ownership issues from legal experts, the elephants will be released from the boma into Sondelani Ranch estate. ZNSPCA Inspectorate will be approaching relevant experts to assist with the rehabilitation of the ten elephants. ZNSPCA requires that all ten elephants be micro chipped before they are released in order to protect them in the future, that they may be traced any time. The public will be kept appraised of our progress.

Assistance was given by numerous other individuals throughout this challenging journey that the ZNSPCA had to take on behalf of these elephants, and we thank them all.

 

 

 

 

Glynis Vaughan

Chief Inspector

ZNSPCA

156 Enterprise Road, Chisipite, Harare, Zimbabwe

P O Box CH55, Chisipite, Harare, Zimbabwe

Phone: +263 4 497574

Fax: +263 4 497885


The Elephant CharterIndividual elephants and populations of elephants, African and Asian, are suffering as a consequence of conflict with people over dwindling resources, poaching for ivory and meat, poor governance, capture for captivity and mistreatment in the name of human entertainment. With science as the foundation for our knowledge, and respect for the interests of elephants, each one of us can contribute toward making a difference to their well being and future survival.

We appeal to you to sign The Elephant Charter!

The purpose of The Elephant Charter is to provide a set of guiding Principles, based on elephant biology, to form a touchstone for anyone needing to address elephant interests. Buttressed by its Appendix, The Elephant Charter represents a consensus of the nature of elephants. It is intended to promote scientifically sound and ethical management and care of all elephants, providing guidance to law and policy makers, enforcement agencies and the courts, organizations, institutions and international bodies, as well as to managers of wild and captive elephants.

Visit and sign The Elephant Charter NOW!
Thursday, 03 September 2009 17:51

Some time ago I wrote about an abusive captive situations in Zimbabwe. We are now able to share the information with you. Please take a moment to read the history of these elephants provided by the ZNSPC.

We will be posting some more photographs of the elephants and an appeal on behalf of the ZNPCA tomorrow. Thank you.

ZNSPCA - A SUMMARY OF WILD ELEPHANTS CAPTURED FOR COMMERCIAL USE HOUSED ON SONDELANI RANCH

HISTORY OF ZNSPCA'S INVOLVEMENT IN WELFARE OF WILD ELEPHANTS CAPTURED FOR COMMERCIAL USE IN ZIMBABWE

In November 2006, Shearwater Adventures located in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, captured twelve wild juvenile elephants from Hwange National Park for the purpose of training the animals for use in the elephant back riding industry. Once ZNSPCA heard about this capture, Inspectors visited the premises where the elephants were being held. One elephant had died a day after it had been captured while another female elephant had escaped from her enclosure. The remaining ten elephants were in a state of shock and showed clear symptoms of stress. After vet reports on the elephants were obtained and photographic evidence taken, the ZNSPCA appealed to National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (NPWMA) for permission to stop the training of these wild elephants and release the animals. NPWMA granted ZNSPCA permission to release the elephants.

On the day the elephants were scheduled for release, however, ZNSPCA Inspectors were told by a deputy Minister of Parliament to leave the elephants alone. Inspectors subsequently filed twelve counts of animal cruelty charges against Shearwater Adventures at the local Police station and submitted photographic evidence to prove the cruelty. Shearwater Adventures subsequently banned Inspectors from entering their property in order to examine the elephants. Two obstruction charges were filed against Shearwater Adventures with the Police. During the next few weeks, the docket for animal cruelty against Shearwater Adventures was "lost", ZNSPCA replaced it, the docket was moved to another police station, and finally all charges including the obstruction charges against Shearwater Adventures were dropped by the Police due to "lack of evidence".

ZNSPCA fought to gain access to the elephants in the High Court for over a year. During time another two elephants died. Inspectors approached elephant specialist, Dr. Joyce Poole, for assistance. Dr. Poole submitted an affidavit regarding the cruelty involved in capturing and training wild elephants. Furthermore, she wrote a motivated request to the Attorney General requesting the ban on future capture of wild elephants (note that these documents were used by ZNSPCA in the subsequent Sondelani case as well). During this period the story was widely publicised in the press and on the Internet, causing the near collapse of Shearwater Adventures' business. Shearwater Adventure was, thus, forced to stop the High Court battle and asked ZNSPCA Inspectors to visit the elephants. Unfortunately, by this time, the intense and highly abusive training was over and Inspectors were unable to prove beyond reasonable doubt, that cruelty was continuing to take place.

NPWMA would not fully commit themselves to banning future captures of wild elephants, but shortly after issuing the release permit to ZNSPCA, verbally communicated that they would not be issuing further permits without ZNSPCA's knowledge.

THE SONDELANI ELEPHANTS

ZNSPCA were unaware that in October 2008 a further ten wild elephants were captured on behalf of Basil Steyn, owner of Sondelani Ranch in West Nicholson, also for the purpose of commercial use. ZNSPCA heard rumours of such a capture in November 2008 and approached the Director General of National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (NPWMA) who assured us that no such permit had been issued.

It was not until April 2009 that ZNSPCA discovered the ten captured elephants and visited Sondelani Ranch to investigate the case on the 15th April 2009. Inspectors learned, with dismay, that Mike Le Grange who owns a wildlife capture company in Zimbabwe caught the ten elephants and that a permit had been issued by NPWMA for the capture and translocation of eight elephants from Dubane Ranch (in the Gwanda area belonging to Cold Storage Commission) to Sondelani Ranch (belonging to Basil Steyn). Senior NPWMA officials admitted that due to loopholes, they had been unaware of this permit. Furthermore, two elephants had been captured without a permit - an issue that is being dealt with by NPWMA. Five of the captured elephants were destined to go to Chengeta Safaris (in Selous near Harare owned by Phil Dobinson) and five were to remain in Mr. Steyn's possession and, after training, be moved to Victoria Falls. All ten elephants were to be used for elephant back rides. The Inspectors were informed that the elephants came from a family herd on Dubane Ranch that had lost its other members to poachers and that their capture ensured that they did not suffer the same fate. After travelling around Dubane Ranch and talking to local residents there, ZNSPCA found out that no such poaching was taking place and the captured elephants had come from at least two different families. There was no apparent human/animal conflict and the only threat to the elephants lives were sport hunters. The future security of these remaining wild elephant on Dubane Ranch is a concern and ZNSPCA will be addressing this issue with the local authorities.

The initial visit by ZNSPCA Inspectors to Sondelani Ranch on 15 April revealed that the elephants were malnourished and had varying degrees of wounds, hence ZNSPCA returned to Sondelani Ranch on the 23rd April 2009 with veterinary surgeon Dr. A. Dube. ZNSPCA were informed that the elephants were receiving fresh vegetables, fruit, cubes as well as mopane branches, yet the only food we saw was the mopane branches. Despite the amounts of food that Steyn claimed to be feeding them, and considering that the elephants had been in captivity for six months, the condition of the elephants was very poor. Further concerns were the lack of access to water and the lack of shade as well as the long hours that the elephants were chained without any socialisation with each other. Furthermore, an adult female elephant was housed on her own, separated from her male calf, causing the calf unnecessary physical suffering as he was continuously straining on his chains in an attempt to get to his mother. The veterinary report compiled by Dr. Dube confirmed these concerns. Furthermore, handlers were feeding the elephants cubes from such a distance that the elephants had to stand on three legs and strain on their chains in order to reach the food. We suspect this was done to enforce the dominance of the handlers and the wounds from the chains caused by this action was unnecessary and cruel. Additionally, the elephants were given only limited access to water, meant to further enforce their dependence on the handlers and this, in our opinion, was cruel and would cause health issues as the intense heat that the elephants were exposed to would cause dehydration if water was not readily available.

ZNSPCA returned to Sondelani Ranch on the 7th May 2009 with elephant specialists, Karen Trendler and Dr. Lucy Bates. Both these specialists' reports illustrated that the elephants were suffering both physically and mentally (indeed on 28th June one young elephant died as a result). During the visit, Mr. Steyn admitted to the specialists and ZNSPCA that the elephants do suffer wounds from the chains during training and that they scream when they are forced into unnatural positions. This admission of cruelty is unacceptable.

Discussions with Joyce Poole and other elephant specialists made it clear that it was entirely possible to successfully release these individuals back into the wild and ZNSPCA began to look into suitable locations.

Due to the lessons learnt in the Shearwater case, ZNSPCA were uneasy about lodging a cruelty charge in regards to these ten elephants as their wellbeing was our responsibility and a future without cruelty needed to be secured. Instead, ZNSPCA used evidence of the severity of abuse suffered by these ten elephants as well as Dr. Joyce Poole's previous affidavit and letter to the Attorney General and approached the Honourable Minister Nhema of Environment and Natural Resources to discuss the way forward for the animals. Honourable Minister Nhema told ZNSPCA that the elephants should be released and that ZNSPCA should work with NPWMA in order to establish stricter controls regarding elephants in captivity in order to prevent such cruelty from reoccurring.

Mr. Steyn had, meanwhile, gone to Court and obtained a High Court order preventing ZNSPCA from releasing the elephants. After consultations and meetings with him, he agreed to withdraw the order and work with ZNSPCA in order to release the elephants.

Further meetings were held with NPWMA top officials regarding enforcing stricter welfare controls to protect those elephants already in captivity and to halt the practice of capturing of wild elephants for the elephant back industry. NPWMA agreed that stricter controls need to be established to protect the existing captive elephant herd in Zimbabwe and that the existing loopholes must be blocked in order to prevent another incident like the Sondelani elephant case. The NPWMA will formalise this at a stakeholders meeting to be held in the near future.

As our Society's funds are limited, ZNSPCA approached Four Paws (Vier Pfoten), an International animal welfare group with its' Headquarters based in Austria, for assistance in facilitating the elephants' release. Four Paws accepted the appeal and have committed themselves to the welfare of the elephants on Sondelani. Thanks to Four Paws, the elephant enclosure has been extended from 100 m2 to 2500 m2 and further extensions are in progress. With the assistance of the Four Paws team, on the advice from Joyce Poole, the elephants were successfully moved from solitary confinement to the small enclosure and from there into the new large enclosure area. All chains have been removed from the elephants. No more training is taking place. Elephants suffering from ill health are receiving veterinary attention and responding well. Bonds are forming within the small group and the elephants are allowed to now express normal behaviour. This transition period is being accurately recorded for future reference.

It is ZNSPCA's aim to release the remaining nine elephants to an area where they will be secure and safe from any hunting or poaching activities. Consideration for their release and neighbouring elephant herds where older males can join bachelor herds must be taken into account when choosing their release location. This release will take place as soon as the elephants are psychologically and physically prepared.

In order to secure the elephants' future, ZNSPCA needs to raise funds to pay for the costs of the food, staff and veterinary treatment of the elephants for the last few months and months to come. Once these nine elephants are safe, ZNSPCA will then use the evidence of cruelty in the form of photographs, video footage and recorded behaviour to present to NPWMA in order to secure the banning of the future capture of wild elephants in Zimbabwe for commercial use.

Any donation towards this project will be greatly appreciated. Photos of the individual elephants are available on request.

Please help us to secure these sentient animals' future.

The Sondelani elephants sosializing before being transported back to freedom in Hwange National Park.We are so happy to tell you that nine elephants brutally caught and trained for elephant back safaris have been released in Hwange National Park. We have worked together with the ZNSPCA and other dedicated individuals and organizations over the last six months to secure the return to the wild of these elephants.

It has been tense, trying and even traumatic at times, and yet there have been deeply rewarding moments. The press release below shows a triumph of humanity - for elephants!


ZNSPCA Press statement of wild captured elephants

ZNSPCA takes great pleasure in reporting the successful release today into Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, of nine previously captured elephants. The release would not have been possible without the assistance and dedication of Vier-Pfoten International and their volunteers. Conservation Solutions were contracted to translocate the elephants and did so in a humane and professional manner with no loss of life or injury to the elephants.

ZNSPCA would like to take this opportunity to commend the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, Honourable Minister Nhema, officials from the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority for their integral role in the release of these abused elephants.

Glynis Vaughan

Chief Inspector
ZNSPCA

Emily looks at Karen Trendler

ZNSPCA
Statement of Fact Regarding the Rescue
and Relocation of Nine Elephants

The Zimbabwe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ZNSPCA) would like to set the record straight regarding the recent elephant rescue project in which nine elephants were rescued and translocated from an elephant training ranch to Hwange National Park.

In April 2009, ZNSPCA discovered 10 African elephants on a ranch in West Nicholson that had been captured from the wild for the purpose of training for elephant back safaris. The elephants had been captured in October 2008 from Dubane Ranch in Matabeleland South.

Due to the evidence of cruelty involved in this training process submitted by ZNSPCA Inspectors, the Honourable Minister of Environment and Tourism, Francis Nhema, ordered the elephants to be released and all training to be stopped.

In June 2009 one elephant, known as Dumasani who was five years old died.

The opinions of renowned Elephant Scientist Dr. Joyce Poole were sought and she confirmed that after substantial rehabilitation, the abused elephants should be able to be released into the wild. Dr. Poole’s input into this matter has been ongoing.

After negotiations by ZNSPCA with the ranch owner, it was agreed that the elephants would be rehabilitated and released back into the wild. In July 2009, ZNSPCA approached the Vier Pfoten (Four Paws) organisation for financial assistance to care for the elephants, as they were considering establishing a rehabilitation and release sanctuary within Zimbabwe. In August 2009, Vier Pfoten staff and volunteers teamed up with the ZNSPCA to assist in caring for and rehabilitating the nine elephants. Vier Pfoten contracted wildlife rehabilitator Karen Trendler, who had assisted the ZNSPCA with the initial report on the abused elephants, to work with the team to rehabilitate the animals.

ZNSPCA approached Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (NPWMA) regarding the abuse of these animals in order to prevent further cases of this nature from occurring. NPWMA agreed that stricter controls needed to be implemented in order to stop the capture of wild elephants for commercial use and NPWMA granted the ZNSPCA permission to move the elephants to Hwange National Park where they could live out their lives as wild animals.

ZNSPCA approached Conservation Solutions (a wildlife capture company) and requested them to move the elephants. Conservation Solutions assisted the ZNSPCA by fundraising for this move as well as other expenses incurred by the rescued animals. After reviewing the project, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) agreed to sponsor the relocation costs of the elephants. On the day of the move, the owner of the ranch read a press statement that was issued and insisted that IFAW pull out of the project.

Faced by the real possibility that the owner of the ranch would prevent the elephants being removed from the property, IFAW agreed to withdraw from the relocation and removed all personnel from assisting in the rescue. Their funding to pay for the relocation remains in place.

Conservation Solutions darted the elephants, fitted a satellite collar (with the assistance of Roger Parry from Wild Horizons Trust) on the oldest female elephant (Mary) and microchipped all the animals. Dr. Andre Uys from Conservation Solutions was the veterinarian in charge of the animals. The Micro chips were kindly donated by Identipet SA. Elephants without Borders donated two expired collars which considerably reduced the cost of Mary’s collar.

The elephants were successfully moved by Conservation Solutions to Hwange National Parks escorted by National Parks Senior Ecologist Rose Mandisodza and ZNSPCA Inspectors, where they were released off the transport truck into the wild. Facilitated by National Parks Warden Arthur Musakwa, the first sighting of the elephants was two days after their release and the small group were still together, showing no repercussions from their long journey and behaving like normal wild elephants.

Post release monitoring of this group will be conducted by National Parks and Wildlife Officials with the assistance of ZNSPCA. As the ZNSPCA have few personnel and are inexperienced in this field, we have approached Wild Horizons Trust and Elephants Without Borders to assist National Parks with the post release monitoring. Wildlife Specialist, Karen Trendler will also play an integral role in this process as she successfully rehabilitated the traumatised elephants. This case has huge scientific significance for other projects of similar nature world wide.

Without the dedication of the Vier Pfoten staff and volunteers over the last three months, and the donations received by numerous individuals and companies, and the advice of elephant scientist Joyce Poole the freedom of these elephants would not have been secured. For many years the ZNSPCA has relied on the support of National Council of SPCA in South Africa and its’ member Societies, and we thank them for that support which enabled ZNSPCA to keep open and deal with cases such as this one. Thank you to all our supporters and sponsors for their assistance.

Below is a map showing the movement of Mary and her small group in the last few days. The group has stayed within a 10km radius of the release site. Further updates of the “wild

Today we received a very welcome message from Marc Bekoff and we want to share it with those of you who are also working on the front line helping animals. The message he sent to us is an excerpt from an an article in Psychology Today. He writes:

"hello you all - from time to time people ask me about activism, burnout, and other matters so i've penned some short one-liners down - agree or disagree (delete if you want to!) i know you all agree that we *must* keep on working for animals and earth and peace and these are some things that keep me going, in no particular order ...

  • think positively - don't let the bastards get you down - i'm not a blind optimist but along with all the 'bad' things there are 'good' things happening and that's what kindles and rekindles me, at least ... negativity is a time and and energy suck and all of you good people need to keep doing what you are *for as long as you can *and this means, at least for me, rekindling .... from time to time taking deep breaths and enjoying whatever it is i enjoy ...
  • we are *not* the radicals
  • we don't have to apologize for feeling - we can be unapologetic activists working for a better world ...
  • be proactive - we need to look at what's happening and prevent further abuse and not always be 'putting out the fires' -- be nice to those with whom you disagree and move on ... sometimes it's just better to let something go and pick your 'battles' carefully and don't waste time
  • teach the children well
  • take care of yourself so you can do what you do for as long as possible
  • Marc  Bekoff:  THE ANIMAL MANIFESTO don't waste time 'fighting' people who won't change and don't let them deflect attention from the important work that needs to be done - that is, don't get in 'pissing matches' with people who want you to waste precious time and energy fighting them, time and energy that must go into working for animals, earth, and peace
  • we are the the future
  • keep thinking positively and proactively ..........

    ..... blessings to you all and thanks for all you do .............

    all best wishes and happy holidays to you all ... marc

Keep an eye out for Marc's upcoming book;
The Animal Manifesto,
Six Reasons for Expanding our Compassion Footprint.

We are obviously happy to see that The Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture proposes to ban elephants from Norwegian circuses. We have been involved in this discussion since we moved to Norway in late 2004, partly by feeding the relevant authorities, including members of Parliament, with sound science.

We have for some time felt convinced that the government body dealing with this issue (The Norwegian Food Safety Authority!) would end up accepting that elephants should no longer be in Norwegian circuses, but we also knew that they might give the circuses some years to adjust to this legislation.

We are not happy with the 5 year transition period (until 1. January 2015), even though we are only talking about 2 to 4 elephants. The proposed ban means that the department has accepted that elephants in circuses suffer - it makes no sense to let this continue for another 5 years. The hearing deadline is 18. January 2010, and we will argue for a shortening of the "transition period".

The proposed ban is an important step forward for a progressive nation - and a victory for elephants. Hopefully we will soon be able to say goodbye to the last elephant in Norway... You can read more about ElephantVoices views on elephants in circuses here.

"They Don't Want To Be In Show Business"

This music video works well with the news from Norway - and related to circus elephants around the world: "They Don't Want To Be In Show Business". The song is about the plight of circus elephants & a call to end this exploitation!

Original song by Bill Dyer, sung by JoAnne Worley, edited by Sandra Mohr & produced by our friend and animal advocate Patty Shenker.

On 1 January 2010 a new Animal Welfare Act was put in force in Norway - based on an expressed political will in the Norwegian Parliament to be in the forefront when it comes to animal welfare. When adopted nearly unanimously by Parliament in May last year it was pinpointed that the way we treat our animals reflects the ethical standard of the society. The Act states that animals have an intrinsic value which is irrespective of the usable value they may have for man, and that animals shall be treated well and be protected from unnecessary distress.

The intention of the Act is to promote both good animal welfare and respect for animals. Anyone who has reason to believe that an animal is exposed to mistreatment or serious neglect regarding the environment, supervision and care, is obliged by law to report it to relevant authority. One shall also ensure that animals needing help receives it, if at all possible. Parents may not allow children less than 16 years of age to have independent responsibility for animals. An explicit ban on sexual relations with animals is included in the Act. The killing of animals as an independent form of entertainment or competition is banned, even if the animal is not necessarily at risk from suffering.

Elephant  Beibie visiting Sandefjord in March 2008. (C) ElephantVoicesWe believe Norway's progressive new Animal Welfare Act will reduce animal suffering, and we congratulate all those involved in this legislation!

17 December 2009 we reported that Norway most likely will ban elephants from circuses. We see this and the new Norwegian Animal Welfare Act as big steps forward for a nation high on all lists when it comes to welfare for humans - it soon may deserve it also when it comes to welfare for animals.

Cheers, Petter

On the final days of December, in the case against Ringling Brothers Circus for their abuse of elephants, Judge Sullivan ruled against animal welfare advocates on technical grounds. He did not address the merits of the case, nor the expert opinions that we spent years preparing and weeks presenting in court. Share page on Facebook!

This is a hollow victory for Ringling; it certainly isn't a vindication of their brutal training and management practices. The trial brought into the public domain the depth of abuse practiced by the circus. This particular battle has been lost, but although Ringling might think they have achieved a victory they have in fact been significantly wounded. The war will yet be won as more and more people give their own verdict.

Ironically, the judgement was announced just days after additional abuse of baby elephants surfaced - this time one of Ringling Brother's own employees blew the whistle, ashamed by his own treatment of baby elephants. You can read and see some of the horrific photos in Washington Posts coverage here.

I reviewed reams of evidence against Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus as an expert witness, so I am well acquainted with their abusive treatment of elephants. Yet, late Samuel Haddock's description of babies screaming and the harrowing images of them straining against their ropes and chains, and being poked, prodded and manhandled, brought tears to my eyes.

The only reason why a bullhook has a steel point is to inflict pain. Deprivation, force and pain form the basis of the training baby elephants undergo to perform in the circus. Thereafter, restraint, deprivation and attempts to avoid pain keep circus elephants under constant control.

Circus elephants are mere commodities for human entertainment: Prevented from behaving naturally and forced to perform behaviors never seen in nature, they are bought and sold, poked and prodded, separated from companions, confined, chained, on concrete and on trains. It is insincere to allow children to believe that elephants in circuses are living an acceptable life when the evidence for the opposite is overwhelming.

Ringling's treatment of elephants is outdated, ignorant and inhumane. Progressive Norway intends to ban the use of elephants in circuses. India has already done so. Isn't it time for America and other so called enlightened countries to follow suit?

Joyce

Many of you may have read about the lawsuit PETA and Zoocheck Canada recently have filed against the Valley Zoo in Edmonton, Canada. Living alone in such a cold climate, Lucy has spent much of her life standing on concrete. The result? A young elephant in an old body. As an expert witness, my view is that Lucy has been and continues to be deprived and is suffering. My hope is that the Valley Zoo will release Lucy to live in a better home where she will have what elephants need: companions, a warm climate and space to roam.

A headline in CBC News goes like this; "PETA sues Edmonton over elephant", and in THE CANADIAN PRESS you can read; "Edmonton, animal rights groups will fight in court over elephant's future".

You can in a couple of previous posts on ElephantVoices, from July and September 2009, read more about Lucy, her story and situation.

Science Opinion Piece 12. March 2010: Elephants, Ivory, and TradeTogether with 25 other scientists we have authored an opinion piece on the ivory trade for Science, which you can access on this page. You'll also find a press release from Drs. Sam Wasser, Andy Dobson, Katarzyna Nowak, Joyce Poole, and Petter Granli.

The piece argues that CITES' member states should reject the proposals from Tanzania and Zambia requesting further sale of ivory. CITES (CoP15) starts today, Saturday 13 March.

Science Opinion Piece, Volume 327, 12. March 2010: icon Elephants, Ivory, and Trade (395.07 kB)

"Scientists Oppose One-off Ivory Sales and Urge International Trade Decisions to Put Science above Politics": icon Press release Science Opinion Piece: Elephants, Ivory, and Trade (63.42 kB)

You will find quite a few links to media coverage related to the opinion piece in Science here.

On April 9th 2010 an elephant named, Dumbo, killed her trainer, Andrew Anderson, at Irem Shrine Circus in Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County. After the incident, the coroner, John P. Corcoran, announced that the killing was "positively an accident."

Based on my many years of observations of elephants in the wild, I am very skeptical of the coroner's pronouncement which, according to the report, was, "The animal, I guess, was moving around ... and the handler, I think, came in from behind him, and the elephant didn't realize he was there and knocked him down." I wonder how the coroner was able to deduce Dumbo's intentions when, based on this quote, where he refers to Dumbo as a "him" he seems not to be able to recognize her as a female.

Despite having to live with a name like "Dumbo," elephants are anything but clumsy. Weighing in at over 6 tons adult elephants are extremely careful and rarely do anything by accident. Elephants may kick a hind leg out during play or to very deliberately remove something that they would prefer not to have behind them. They do not kick out when they are surprised, or by mistake.

Bullhook/ankus  used in Thailand.Elephants have superior sense of hearing, incredible sense of smell and they are able to detect minute vibrations via their feet. Dumbo would have known that Anderson was approaching her from behind - she would have been able to smell, feel and hear him. Elephants don't like to be approached from behind as it makes them feel vulnerable - anyone who works with elephants should know that. Circus trainers carry bullhooks and use them, often with force, to move elephants around. Dumbo would have known that, too. Dumbo may or may not have intended to kill her keeper with her kick, but she certainly intended to kick him very hard.

Elephants live a horrible existence in circuses and sometimes they have just had enough. It does not help the public to understand when a respected member of the public makes a pronouncement with such certainty that is based on such little knowledge of elephants, their behavior, their cognitive abilities and their welfare.

The issue of space is at the core of most elephant discussions we are involved in - both when it comes to wild or captive situations. Without proper space for mind and movement elephants cannot thrive. It is as simple and difficult as that. (See Poole, J & Granli, P. 2008. Mind and Movement: Meeting the Interests of Elephants. (.pdf, 2.19 Mb))

In many range states private conservancies, elephant corridors and metapopulation structures are among ingredients for elephants future survival. We highly recommend anyone interested to read the IFAW publication "Elephants: Facts & Fables" (.pdf, 2.71 Mb). The publication seeks to shed light on what we really know, and don’t, about elephants, their dynamics, and conservation management in southern Africa.

Written by the renowned Professor Rudi van Aarde, director of the Conservation Ecology Research Unit of the University of Pretoria, South Africa, the book features magnificent photography and is intended to better inform discussions of public policy and management as they pertain to elephants.

Every day we receive messages about how captive elephants are being mistreated, often accompanied by disturbing photographs or video footage. It can be tough spending hours, weeks and months looking at the brutality and abuse inflicted on defenceless animals who cannot speak for themselves.

We are a small team so we are not able to take on individual battles for each and every elephant. But there are particular cases when we feel compelled to make our opinions known and Lucky, and now Queenie, in the San Antonio Zoo are two examples. Lucky has been languishing alone in the San Antonio Zoo and welfare advocates have been arguing that she should be sent to a sanctuary due to her poor accomodation and her lack of companionship. When Queenie was rescued from an abusive life in the circus everyone expected her to go to one of the two sanctuaries, which are ideally set up to provide a home for elephants who have been mistreated. Indeed negotiations with PAWS were well underway.

In what we consider a dirty trick, however, the San Antonio Zoo managed to get hold of Queenie using the argument that Lucky needed a companion. A spineless USDA supported that argument saying that the San Antonio Zoo is accredited. We believe that this maneuver is part of an ongoing attempt by the AZA to block the sanctuaries from receiving elephants - so they don't lose face. We certainly don't disagree that Lucky should have companionship, but feel strongly that both Queenie AND Lucky should retire to a sanctuary, before it is too late. What the San Antonio Zoo is offering them is just not good enough. The USDA using the accreditation line when the Zoo is so poor, is just pathetic.

We have written letters to USDA and decision makers in Washington and San Antonio, and have made phone calls to some relevant offices. We are happy knowing that many good people and organizations are doing their part - and we continue to strategize together with some about how to move forward.

The swaying of confined elephants like Lucky shown in the video below is extremely disturbing - because it is so symptomatic of a life of social and physical deprivation. With nowhere to go and no one to see, no new smells to investigate and nothing to strive for elephants become bored and frustrated. The result? They stand in one place rocking, back and forth slowly losing their minds. Well, wouldn't we do the same given similar circumstances?

Why do we humans feel such a need to confine and control other animals? Is our pleasure in seeing them captive worth the cruelty that we inflict on them? Elephants are intelligent socially complex individuals who have the same basic needs that we have: Freedom and autonomy, companionship and affection, just to name a few.

I often try to put myself in the elephants' shoes, so to speak. Ever had to stand waiting for that bus or train that never comes? Feet and back aching? I, too, start to step from one foot to the other. I, too, rock back and forth, I sway. But I don't wait for transport for weeks, for months, for years. I have the freedom to choose to go. We need to wake up to the reality of what we are doing to other creatures and stop hiding behind a lot of constructed arguments for keeping elephants in this way. In our enlightened society elephants should not have to live like this any longer - Queenie and Lucky, and other elephants in their circumstance should go to a sanctuary where they have space to roam in the company of other elephants.

During the last week the international media has published a number of negative reports about the "ghoulish" capture and imminent shipment from Zimbabwe to North Korea of wild species of animals captured in Hwange National Park. In a press conference in Harare on Wednesday 19 May, Director General of Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, Vitalis Chadenga, reiterated that the impending export of elephants and five other species (giraffes, zebras, warthog, spotted hyenas and rock hyrax) is a “business arrangement

We just uploaded a new page under section Elephant Interests that you might like to read - Elephants in TV and film. Many leading authorities on elephants, including scientists, conservationists, welfare experts and veterinarians, agree that elephants have no place in entertainment.

From  Elephant on Trampoline - Courtesy of Nicolas Deveaux.The conditions forced upon elephants used in entertainment are inherently detrimental to individual welfare, since physical and social needs are always secondary to performance. Calves are torn from their mothers to be broken and intensively trained. By long tradition and often by necessity elephants are held in small pens or on chains and transported around in semi-trucks. On location they are often even further restricted. These conditions bear no semblance to an elephant’s natural lifestyle. Lack of space and companions, and physical and mental inactivity all have enormous consequences for the individual’s health and well-being over the course of a lifetime.

You will find the page here, with link to letter recently sent to the producers of the upcoming film "Water for Elephants" presenting the arguments for not using live elephants in this (or any other) TV or film production.

Cheers, Petter

On 12th May Joyce Poole was interviewed on Talking Animals.

She discusses elephant behavior and communication, and our responsibility for their well being.

She also touches on the fate of Boo (alias Queenie) and Lucky in the San Antonio Zoo.

You can listen to the interview via the below media player.

Joyce on Talking Animals {audio}Talking_Animals_Audio_Archive_Joyce_Poole.mp3{/audio}

Front  page  letter Mr. ChadengaA week ago we posted Zimbabwe captures elephants and creates an angry storm - and along with many others we keep hoping that Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority will cancel its plans for further captures in Hwange National Park and the shipment of these animals to North Korea. Its been amazing to see how many people have written to us to express their disgust with the authority's plans - especially moving have been some of the e-mails from Zimbabweans.

On 21st May Joyce did an interview with SW Radio Africa about the captured elephants. You can listen to the interview below - after buffering move to 23.15 to go directly to where the interview starts.
{audio}swradio_africa_210510.mp3{/audio}

For those of you who have not seen the open letter (180.02 kB) that more than 50 organisations from around the world signed on to, click on the letter to the right. Pass it on to as many people as you will!

If you want to sign a petition you can do so here.

On May 28th we were asked to talk to WFAA TV in Texas about the stereotypic behavior of Jenny, an elephant at the Dallas Zoo and, since we have written about icon her before (159.39 kB), we agreed.

In the course of the interview, part of which was aired the same day on WFAA TV, Joyce, mentioned being surprised by the Zoo's use of the expression "let elephants be elephants" in the context of their new 5-6 acre elephant exhibit. And that is where the controversy erupted.
This phrase is one that Joyce has used for years to refer to the kind of space elephants need to keep from becoming bored and frustrated in captivity: Space that allows elephants to form families and raise their young;
- to separate for hours and then use their sense of smell and long distance hearing to find one another again;
- space that allows elephants to forage, to browse and to graze, naturally;
- space that allows females to socialize with males, now and again;
- space that keeps them fully engaged.

(See Mind and Movement: Meeting the Interests of Elephants.)

So, when the Dallas Zoo co-opted this phrase for a 5-6 acre exhibit that will hold six elephants and doesn't have any natural vegetation, it seemed, to us, a misuse of "our" term. If the Dallas Zoo actually believes that this space will allow elephant to be elephants, then we respectfully suggest that they spend more time learning about the lives of wild elephants. We simply do not agree and felt it necessary to say so.

We understand that this is all about marketing - but AZA institutions are in the habit of providing the public with misinformation about elephants; zoos need to use sounder science and be more careful with their statements.

While we are disappointed that no zoo so far has used the multi-millions of dollars raised for an elephant exhibits that really would allow elephants to really be elephants, we are always happy to see conditions improved for individuals. And the new exhibit is certainly a great improvement for Jenny - and the other elephants who will share the space with her.

We continue to challenge the AZA to create landscapes rather than "exhibits" that will give elephants the real freedom to live their lives as elephants. It can be done.

In late January this year, Junia Machado, a Brazilian from Sao Paulo, wrote to us to ask for some help in assessing the situation for Teresita, an African elephant is living alone in the Sao Paulo Zoo. She also wanted to know how she could contribute towards the goals of ElephantVoices.

Since then we have started to collaborate with her on some welfare issues related to captive elephants in Brazil (there are 23 - 15 Asian and 8 African), which we will come back to in the near future.

A couple of days ago Junia sent us a link to an excellent article in a Sao Paulo newspaper - a journalist and grandfather's reflections after a zoo visit. You will find the original version of journalist Nelson Motta's article in Portugese here, and an English version translated through Google here. It is worth reading!

By banning all animals from circuses Bolivia has shown the way forward. There are other positive things happening in regard to animal welfare in other countries in Latin America, too. ElephantVoices intends to try to follow the situation in Brazil, inspired by the dedication of Junia Machado. Junia has volunteered to work with us to find out more about the situation for elephants in the country and to promote positive change.

Junia has recently spent quite a lot of time with the 26-year-old elephant, Teresita, who lives alone in the São Paulo Zoo. With our input Junia is collecting data to describe how this lonely female African elephant spend her time. This "activity budget" will give insight into how Teresita is coping in an appalling situation, and what the zoo is doing or not doing to alleviate her suffering. Junia is collecting information on Teresita's activities every minute on-the-minute which will basically summarize how Teresita spends her time. Our hope is that Junia's data, combined with solid science available on ElephantVoices.org, will provide the facts and arguments that are needed to convince legislators and others with power that radical change is required to improve Teresita's existence. We will be sharing Junia's findings with you and will follow up with the reaction of the zoo. The photographs below taken by Junia already tell a lot about her sad living conditions.

In April 2000, the attention of Brazil's lawmakers was brought to the issue of animals in circuses when a six-year-old boy was killed by a lion in the Vostok circus. At that time the lack of security was the main focus. Eight years later, national news reported a new case, this time referring to accusations of cruelty. In August 2008, the Brazilian Environment Agency (IBAMA) confiscated animals from "Le Cirque," accusing the circus of inappropriate space and inhumane treatment. A law banning animals from circuses was proposed as early as 2006, and three states, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Pernambuco, and more than 20 cities in other states, have already implemented such bans. Since 2010 is an election year in Brazil it is quite difficult to know what will happen, but we sincerely hope we will see some progress after the general election in the beginning of October and Junia is in any case following up.

Junia's interest in elephants was triggered by a book, Marvelous and Mysteries of Animal World, published in 1966. Do read Junia's own words about her interest and love for elephants - and how she became so committed to helping Teresita. You will hear more from Junia and about elephants in Brazil during the months to come - and hopefully some good news about legislation and improved elephant welfare. There are currently 23 elephants in Brazilian zoos (519.25 kB) - we continue to look into how many circus elephants there are.

Teresita reaching through a hole in the cement wall to search for food. (©Junia Machado)



Teresita has several strange calluses on her head, most likely caused by having to press her head against the cement wall to stretch her trunk through the hole in the wall to try to attain out of reach food. (©Junia Machado)

From this location Teresita might be able to see some near by activity. (©Junia Machado)

Another grey and boring day for a sad Teresita; nothing
to do and no friends. (©Junia Machado)

Joyce Poole and Petter Granli of ElephantVoices' visited Barcelona from 9-11 June to assess the situation for elephants, Susi and Yoyo, in Barcelona Zoo. The visit was based on an initative by the organisations Libera and Faada, and with the input and inspiration of several others who are interested in the plight of these two elephants.

We had two constructive meetings with Barcelona Zoo Director, Miquel Trepat, and two of his colleagues, and in an open letter (171.79 kB) we have given the zoo our feedback. It is our opinion that Susi and Yoyo's interests cannot be met in an urban zoo and we argue that, ideally, they should be moved to an elephant sanctuary. Currently, there is no such place in Europe, yet Spain has an ideal climate for such a sanctuary and we are engaged in discussion with people who hope to make this a reality. In the mean time the elephants suffer, as most zoo elephants do, but it is fair to add that the Barcelona Zoo continues to work to improve their conditions.

Our letter goes into many of the issues relevant to elephants in zoos, while also pinpointing some of the special challenges related to Susi and Yoyo and the plans of Barcelona Zoo.

The educational value of "exhibiting" elephants who, due to their captive situation, do not behave remotely like elephants, is from our perspective, extremely limited. We would argue that giving children the impression that it is OK to keep animals in conditions far from what they need may, instead, create attitudes that may stimulate abuse rather than the opposite. While the Barcelona Zoo states that they are known for their education program, the information sign by the elephant enclosure speaks for itself.

Our visit and views were covered by the media as a result of a press conference and other interviews arranged by Libera! and FAADA during our stay. You will find some media links below, others will be included when the articles are published. At the bottom of the page you will find ElephantVoices video clips with Susi and Yoyo.

TVE a la CARTA (17.12 into the program)

L'elefanta Yoyo compleix un any separada de Susi al Zoo de Barcelona
(English version of above article, translated via Google translate)

La Yoyo i la Susi continuen separades
(English version of above article, translated via Google translate)


News coverage on www.btvnoticies.cat 10 June.


Susi has been in the Barcelona Zoo since 2002, while her current neighbour, Yoyo, arrived 6th June 2009.
We do not believe that an urban zoo is able to provide
what Susi and Yoyo need to be able to thrive. (©ElephantVoices)


From left to right: Jenny Berengueras (FAADA), Petter Granli (ElephantVoices), Vera Weber (Fondation Franz Weber), Joyce Poole (ElephantVoices), Laura Riera (FAADA), Alejandra García (Libera!) and Daniel Turner (Born Free) visiting Barcelona Zoo in June 2010.
Susi to the right. (©ElephantVoices)


Yoyo. (©ElephantVoices)

 


Information sign by
Barcelona Zoo elephant enclosure.

 

Susi and Yoyo 9 June 2010. Footage ElephantVoices.

Zimbabwe is probably responsible for more African elephants suffering in zoos and circuses around the world than any other single country. The American Zoological Association elephant “studbook

Today we received an important and uplifting update from Tikki Hywood Trust, the organization that has dealt with the release of captured animals following Zimbabwe's decision to cancel the highly controversial deal with North Korea.

Our strong hope continue to be that Zimbabwe will ban the capture and sale of wild animals permanently, for the best interest of the animals themselves, Zimbabwe's tourism revenue and the country's world wide image. This is also what we argued for in the letter (180.02 kB) sent to Zimbabwe's wildlife authorities 21 May 2010, copied to President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and others. The letter was signed by over 50 organizations from around the world.

Todays newsletter from Tikki Hywood Trust:

For those of you who have not, yet read the full story of the animals captured in Hwange National Park, who were destined for an overseas zoo, please read our newsletter dated: July 10th 2010 at www.zimbabwe7.wildlifedirect.org

The very, anticipated morning arrived, 12th July 2010. Makwa and Kennedy (the juvenile male and female elephants) were to be moved to their new, if only temporary home - Wild Horizons Wildlife Trust (WHWT) in Victoria Falls. Both young elephants could not have behaved more perfectly. Thanks to the skill of Vic Coetzee and his years of experience in wildlife capture and handling, both elephants walked out of the bomas, which had been their home for the past two months, and onto the truck which was to take them to WHWT. When I learnt, that Vicus had agreed to do the capture and translocation of these two elephants, it most certainly brought a smile to my face. In 1992 it was the legendary Clem Coetzee, Vicus's father who taught me about wildlife and what conservation meant. I was to learn over those three months of moving family herds of elephants out of the drought stricken Ghonerezhou National Park, that people who care can move mountains, or perhaps in this case elephants.

We were delighted that the two National Park Elephant handlers who were taking care of Makwa and Kennedy in Hwange, were coming along as well to settle the elephants into their new home. This is hugely, important as the handlers have become the elephants surrogate family, and to minimise the stress and fear of translocation it is vital that they have a familiar face to reassure them. The trip from Umtshibi in Hwange National Park to WHWT is around 200 kms, so both elephants were given a mild sedative which helped with the journey.

When the truck arrived with both Makwa and Kennedy, the resident elephant herd at WHWT, could be heard. Makwa the female was the first to leave the safety of the truck. She was escorted to her new stable where there was food, water and browse ready, for her. Kennedy, the more wary of the two, followed shortly after Makwa. They were stabled independently but along side each other. Makwa and Kennedy were captured from two separate herds and so are not related, so in affect the two of them have to adapt to one another as well. The reason why the two young elephants have to now go through this rehabilitation phase is because the can not be returned to their family herds from which they were taken. When they were captured, they were going to an overseas zoo, and therefore parent herds were not marked for post-capture monitoring. So this means that their family herds cannot be reliably identified.

The following day both Makwa and Kennedy were taken out of their stables and introduced to the main herd which is to become their new family. This is still the first step in the rehabilitation of these two elephants, however so far things are looking positive and for the first time in a couple of months both elephants got to walk in amongst the bush, where they should always be. They are now part of a process where they will be socialising with other elephants of all ages, to develop a more natural herd system. By these two elephants being introduced to older elephants, they will also be disciplined and taught the social graces of what it is to being an elephant, a wild one that is.

Elephant football, Thailand. (©Bob Poole)As tourists we often don't consider what goes on behind the scenes when entertainment and "local culture" involve animals. One can easily be charmed by the experience of elephant-back safaris and rides, elephant football or elephant polo, not knowing the brutal reality that is often behind these kind of activities. The use of elephants in tourism has become an industry in itself, which you can read more about on this page.

Shubhobroto Ghosh has written a read-worthy article about elephant polo in Monsoon 2010 - Elephant polo: conservation activity or animal abuse? (1.3 MB). The article touches on the involvement of a high profile Asian elephant conservation group, Elephant Family, who should know better. We advise you to read the article, post this page on your Facebook account (click on SharePage, FB option, in top right corner) or forward the URL to this page to friends. If you are a supporter of Elephant Family you may want to let them know you disagree with their support of this "sport."

Have you ever thought that an elephant back safari must be the best and most exciting experience of all? That riding on one of these magnificent animals would be a unique adventure - believing that they are well suited for this kind of human entertainment?

Gruesome training methods

Elephant capture, Myanmar. Photo: Tim GorskiThe brutal truth is that most elephants are trained for elephant back rides or safaris through a practise no elephant owner will talk about. The elephants' spirits are broken through unbelievably gruesome methods, while they are tied up or chained in a pen where they cannot move. With the help of systematic torture over days and weeks, often without water or food, an elephant learns that he or she has to obey human control. Later, at work, many mahouts use the bullhooks frequently to feel certain that the elephant does not annoy their customers, and stay in line. Beatings, wounds, painful body marks and blood is often seen even by the very tourists who are paying a high price to have the "experience of a lifetime". The video below is from Burma, but the same type of procedure continues to be used in parts of Thailand. In Thailand this sad and highly abusive tradition is often called Phajaan.

Captured in the wild

Elephant capture, Myanmar. Photo: Tim GorskiThe majority of elephants found in circuses and zoos around the world were captured from the wild - the same goes for trekking elephants and the increasing number of elephants being used in entertainment, films and marketing. The practice continues today, and with the growing number of tourists and many ignorant travel agencies and tour operators, the life and well being of hundreds of elephants both in Asia and in Africa is at stake.

Please tell your friends the ugly truth about elephant rides

The best way you can help is to convince friends who are considering going on an elephant back safari that they simply shouldn't. Travel agencies that include elephant back rides and entertainment in their programs should be told that this is unacceptable. We believe that most tourists would stay far away if they knew what kind of treatment elephant goes through before they are ready for work. There are good places in Thailand where you can experience elephants close up, but you should never get on their back! The worst kind of brutality lays behind many other types of elephant entertainment, too, read more here on ElephantVoices and via online initiatives like Elemotion.

Footage by Tim Gorski showing wild elephant captures and break of spirit (Pahjaan) in Myanmar, Burma. Warning: Graphic animal abuse!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAinaDnPPO0

Last week we were part of something new and exciting - the long overdue recognition of a new brand of conservation - compassionate conservation. This fundamental topic was discussed during a symposium at University of Oxford 1 to 3 September - with 150 participants from 22 countries representing all continents.

Will Travers of Born Free put it so well: "The shared commitment of individual people to individual animals lies at the heart of Compassionate Conservation. Individual animals, species, habitats and ecosystems, sustained, protected and nurtured by individual people, families and communities throughout towns, countries, regions, continents."

The lives of individual animals matter, because what we do to them has consequences for their well being and for the health of the complex societies in which they live. The continued existence of populations of social species, like elephants, is dependent upon the endurance of friendships and the integrity of families and clans. Yet, in the name of conservation and "sustainable utilization" these individual building blocks of societies are often forgotten, purposefully ignored and disposed of as organizations and nations barter away lives to supply the ivory trade, provide for a hunter's bullet and supply captives for zoos, circuses and elephant-back safaris.

If you want to listen to our take on what compassionate conservation means for elephants take a look at our presentation presented at the symposium. And share, share - we want to spread the word.


The Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) and the Born Free Foundation hosted the Compassionate Conservation Symposium, at Lady Margaret Hall, a college closely associated with WildCRU at the University of Oxford. Copyright: Compassionate Conservation

Please watch "9 Little Elephants"! This is an important and moving film, which tells the story of the Sondelani elephants and exposes the dark side of the elephant-back safari business. Mary, Jack, Mancube, John, Jessica, Nomalanga, Emily, Emma, Baby Girl and Dumasani, were captured and brutally trained for elephant-back safaris in Zimbabwe. Little Dumasani died of malnutrition and abuse during the process. Through the incredible perseverance and compassion of many dedicated individuals, the nine others were released back to the wild in Hwange National Park.

ElephantVoices played a small but important role in the rescue and release of these elephants by offering advise on elephant behavior to Karen Trendler, the ZNSPCA, and Four Paws. You can read some more about what happened through these previous news pieces here on ElephantVoices.org:
- Wild elephants captured for elephant back safaris (3 Sept. 2009)
- Appeal for the Sondelani elephants (11 Sept. 2009)

Bullhooks and chaining, and the brutal training for circuses and elephant-back safaris that relies on restraint and negative reinforcement, are contentious issues in the elephant world. "9 Little Elephants" shows why we feel so strongly that these tools and the practice of capturing and brutally training elephants should be made a thing of the past. Read more on Elephants captured and sold.

A warm Thank You to all those individuals who made the release of these elephants a reality - and to the producer of the 45 minute documentary Coral Tree Films!

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.

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".

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.

Joyce & Petter


A few related articles:

In the spirit of The Elephant Charter, and global recognition of the need for elephant sanctuary, ElephantVoices has developed a short document describing our perspective on "sanctuary" for elephants, and the overall principles we believe such sanctuary must be based upon. You can read and download Sanctuary for Elephants - Overall Principles, on this page.

Although elephants are highly adaptable to a broad range of conditions in the wild, they are ill-adapted to captivity. Research into wild elephant biology has revealed the true range of elephant capabilities and the normal physical and social conditions in which elephants thrive. These conditions are rarely, if ever, met in traditional forms of captivity. While animal welfare is increasingly configured in terms of "5 Freedoms", for captive elephants two of them - freedom to express normal behaviour and freedom from fear and distress - are particularly problematic.

Elephants have been held in captivity for various purposes for thousands of years. They are seen by many as a natural resource to be exploited to meet human needs. Elephants are put to work in forestry enterprises, religious institutions, tourism, circuses and zoos, and serve as subjects for captive propagation programs. The failure to meet the physical, social and cognitive interests of elephants in captivity, is manifest.

ElephantVoices is frequently engaged with people and organisations wanting to provide rescue and sanctuary for elephants, as it relates to our mission and to the principles of The Elephant Charter, of which we are authors and signatories. The Sanctuary for Elephants document is meant to be of help to anyone involved in such discussions, where ever they may take place.

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.

Consulation with The Elephant Sanctuary (TES), Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and individuals with sanctuary experience is obviously on the agenda to be able to bring plans for a sanctuary in Brazil forward, and all efforts are based on Sanctuary for Elephants - Overall Principles (148.66 kB), developed by ElephantVoices. During PAWS Summit for Elephants in California in March 2012 ElephantVoices also met with Elephant Haven, an initiative meant to lead to a much needed elephant sanctuary in Europe (France).

Junia Machado's interest in elephants was triggered when she was eight years old, and when she saw Teresita in São Paulo Zoo some years ago, she decided to do her best for elephants and contacted ElephantVoices. Since then she has built up a network of people volunteering time and energy for elephants. Together with co-volunteer Ana Zinger in Rio de Janeiro and Ticiana Carneiro in São Paulo she has started blogging on ElephantVoices Brasil and also launched ElephantVoices Brasil on Facebook. In addition to news related to captive elephants in Brasil, and hand-picked news from around the world, Junia and her Brazilian team post material and news from ElephantVoices.org, all translated into portuguese.


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 Junia if you want to join ElephantVoices Brasil in their efforts!

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.

Billy in LA Zoo. (©ElephantVoices)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.

Since the origin of elephants, about 60 million years ago, the order Proboscidea has included at least 160 species in 39 genera, in an extraordinary array of forms. The African and Asian elephants existing today are the sole remnants of that spectacular radiation, and they, too, may be close to the end of their time on earth.

It was with decades of experience studying elephant communication and behavior and an equal number of years witnessing, firsthand, the suffering of elephants, that we envisioned something along the lines of a Bill of Rights for elephants. It seemed that, no matter where we turned, there were issues related to the treament of elephants. management practices, poaching for ivory, capture of elephants for captivity, and the holding of elephants captive led us to ask: How should we treat these extraordinarily complex, intelligent, social beings? What rights to exist or to be given fair treatment should they have in our anthropocentric world? The Elephant Charter, written in 2007, was the result.

As initiators of the Elephant Charter we wish to share with you its preamble, which resonates even more powerfully today than when it was written in 2007. The Elephant Charter has per September 2013 been signed by well over 50 elephant biologists, more than 130 elephant professionals and over 1,400 friends of elephants. Please join us by signing The Elephant Charter and helping to change the way people think about our planet and all of its inhabitants.

The preample to the Elephant Charter begins:

"For thousands of years, people have praised and punished, elevated and degraded, revered and feared elephants. Now, the earth’s largest living land mammal is under threat, and with it a host of ecosystems. The destruction of elephants and their habitats has annihilated entire populations and pushed others close to the brink of extinction. Furthermore, the regular exploitation and abuse of individual elephants is a source of preventable suffering.

The preservation of elephants is vital to the health of the natural world and to the heritage of future generations; mistreatment of them is unworthy of our species. We, the undersigned scientists and conservationists, affirm that elephants are unique, important and irreplaceable. We, therefore, hereby introduce an Elephant Charter to promote the protection of all elephants from human conduct and institutions that cause their needless suffering or loss of life.

We recognise the right of people to go about their daily activities and economies without threat to life or livelihood from elephants. Nevertheless, when human endeavours threaten the future survival of elephants, people must examine their collective behaviour in relation to the needs of other species. We have reached such a time...."

 

 

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".

Please watch "9 Little Elephants"! This is an important and moving film, which tells the story of the Sondelani elephants and exposes the dark side of the elephant-back safari business. Mary, Jack, Mancube, John, Jessica, Nomalanga, Emily, Emma, Baby Girl and Dumasani, were captured and brutally trained for elephant-back safaris in Zimbabwe. Little Dumasani died of malnutrition and abuse during the process. Through the incredible perseverance and compassion of many dedicated individuals, the nine others were released back to the wild in Hwange National Park.

ElephantVoices played a small but important role in the rescue and release of these elephants by offering advise on elephant behavior to Karen Trendler, the ZNSPCA, and Four Paws. You can read some more about what happened through these previous news pieces here on ElephantVoices.org:
- Wild elephants captured for elephant back safaris (3 Sept. 2009)
- Appeal for the Sondelani elephants (11 Sept. 2009)

Bullhooks and chaining, and the brutal training for circuses and elephant-back safaris that relies on restraint and negative reinforcement, are contentious issues in the elephant world. "9 Little Elephants" shows why we feel so strongly that these tools and the practice of capturing and brutally training elephants should be made a thing of the past. Read more on Elephants captured and sold.

A warm Thank You to all those individuals who made the release of these elephants a reality - and to the producer of the 45 minute documentary Coral Tree Films!

Have you ever thought that an elephant back safari must be the best and most exciting experience of all? That riding on one of these magnificent animals would be a unique adventure - believing that they are well suited for this kind of human entertainment?

Gruesome training methods

Elephant capture, Myanmar. Photo: Tim GorskiThe brutal truth is that most elephants are trained for elephant back rides or safaris through a practise no elephant owner will talk about. The elephants' spirits are broken through unbelievably gruesome methods, while they are tied up or chained in a pen where they cannot move. With the help of systematic torture over days and weeks, often without water or food, an elephant learns that he or she has to obey human control. Later, at work, many mahouts use the bullhooks frequently to feel certain that the elephant does not annoy their customers, and stay in line. Beatings, wounds, painful body marks and blood is often seen even by the very tourists who are paying a high price to have the "experience of a lifetime". The video below is from Burma, but the same type of procedure continues to be used in parts of Thailand. In Thailand this sad and highly abusive tradition is often called Phajaan.

Captured in the wild

Elephant capture, Myanmar. Photo: Tim GorskiThe majority of elephants found in circuses and zoos around the world were captured from the wild - the same goes for trekking elephants and the increasing number of elephants being used in entertainment, films and marketing. The practice continues today, and with the growing number of tourists and many ignorant travel agencies and tour operators, the life and well being of hundreds of elephants both in Asia and in Africa is at stake.

Please tell your friends the ugly truth about elephant rides

The best way you can help is to convince friends who are considering going on an elephant back safari that they simply shouldn't. Travel agencies that include elephant back rides and entertainment in their programs should be told that this is unacceptable. We believe that most tourists would stay far away if they knew what kind of treatment elephant goes through before they are ready for work. There are good places in Thailand where you can experience elephants close up, but you should never get on their back! The worst kind of brutality lays behind many other types of elephant entertainment, too, read more here on ElephantVoices and via online initiatives like Elemotion.

Footage by Tim Gorski showing wild elephant captures and break of spirit (Pahjaan) in Myanmar, Burma. Warning: Graphic animal abuse!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAinaDnPPO0

Elephant football, Thailand. (©Bob Poole)As tourists we often don't consider what goes on behind the scenes when entertainment and "local culture" involve animals. One can easily be charmed by the experience of elephant-back safaris and rides, elephant football or elephant polo, not knowing the brutal reality that is often behind these kind of activities. The use of elephants in tourism has become an industry in itself, which you can read more about on this page.

Shubhobroto Ghosh has written a read-worthy article about elephant polo in Monsoon 2010 - Elephant polo: conservation activity or animal abuse? (1.3 MB). The article touches on the involvement of a high profile Asian elephant conservation group, Elephant Family, who should know better. We advise you to read the article, post this page on your Facebook account (click on SharePage, FB option, in top right corner) or forward the URL to this page to friends. If you are a supporter of Elephant Family you may want to let them know you disagree with their support of this "sport."