Taronga Western Plains Zoo Manager Matt Fuller said today:
"The zoo is at its heart dedicated to animal welfare. There is no history of mistreatment of animals that have been transferred from its care."
Taronga Western Plains Zoo sold 16 Blackbuck in total across the two occasions. The third transfer was an exchange in which Dongadale Deer Park provided Taronga Western Plains Zoo with a male to increase the genetic diversity in the Zoo’s herd.
Taronga Western Plains Zoo confirms that its senior veterinarian did visit Dongadale Deer Park and found that its operations and animal care were satisfactory.
The prices charged for the animals relate to cost recovery and are reviewed from time to time. A review occurred after the first transaction and a higher fee was charged.
Mr Fuller said: "The transfers occurred for breeding purposes only with a registered deer stud licensed in NSW to breed this species. It is important to note that private game reserves are illegal in NSW and the Zoo does not swap or exchange animals with any organisation anywhere in the world for the purposes of hunting."
It was incorrectly stated that transaction records included a reference indicating the animals were to be used for breeding purposes only, however, that was the purpose of the transaction and Zoo staff have reconfirmed this with Dongadale’s proprietor.
The zoo is currently not trading animals with any private operators and a review is underway to ensure that all possible measures are taken to ensure the welfare of animals is maintained once they leave the zoo’s direct care.
To clarify earlier reports, it should be noted that the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which is the globally recognised authority on the threat status of wildlife, lists Blackbuck not as an endangered species, but as near-threatened and with a stable population trend.
In a letter to Taronga Western Plains Zoo Bob McComb said:
"The antelope which I received from you will not be hunted, ever. They will have a long and fruitful existence.
It is my intent to maintain a lifeboat population of blackbuck which will have minimum genetic drift from successive generations."