Securing a shared future for wildlife and people

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Date: 21.02.2008

Photo: Burma, Arna and Gigi

Taronga Conservation Society Australia Director, Guy Cooper, has announced that ex-circus elephants Arna and Gigi will live together at Taronga Western Plains Zoo.

Following expert health and behavioural assessments by Zoo elephant managers from across Australia it was decided that Arna and Gigi should stay together and that Taronga Western Plains Zoo was the best location for these older elephants.

They will live with Taronga Western Plains Zoo's Asian Elephant, Burma, with whom they have already formed a relationship, in the purpose-built exhibit next to the Zoo's two African Elephants.

Mr Cooper said: "Some people don't realise elephants are complex and intelligent animals with different personalities, making it imperative that we made sure these animals got on and were happy together before a decision was made for their future."

"If we hadn't had such vital expertise available to make these assessments properly, it would have been like putting strangers together for the rest of their lives without knowing whether they enjoyed each other's company."

Arna and Gigi had not received the regular veterinary available to elephants in the zoos and part of the assessment process was to check the two elephants' health given their advanced age. They are 50 and 53 respectively.

Mr Cooper said: "Here is the immense value of regional zoos working together to make these decisions carefully and in the animals' best interest.  For unqualified outside agencies and individuals to make premature, ill-informed and emotive demands about the elephants' future is quite wrong and potentially cruel."

"As Arna and Gigi had a long relationship, it was important that they be given time to settle in and then for zoo experts to be guided by the elephants' behaviour in their decision on the best future for these two animals."

Arna, Gigi and Burma have been swimming in their pool together, touching trunks and sharing food, rapidly creating the sort of relationship that elephant society establish.  Arna has quickly assumed the role of senior female.

Australasian zoos will continue to work together on caring for and making recommendations for the aging elephants in zoos and circuses in the region.  This is another excellent outcome from the regional Guidelines for Management of Elephants in Australasian Zoos, established in 2004.

The Guidelines cover the care and management of all the elephants in the region, to ensure the very best quality of life for the elephants no matter what their stage of life.

Regional zoos are already involved in eight in situ programs for wild Asian Elephants across Asia, in addition to the breeding program in Australia in support of the species which is much more endangered than its African relations.

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