Elephants a big issue
A HERD of elephants at Auckland Zoo may have political support, but there are still major hurdles to overcome before the plan becomes a reality.
The zoo can’t import any Asian elephants in the immediate future because there are currently no quarantine standards for the animals coming into the country.
Zoo director Jonathan Wilcken says an application has been lodged with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, but it’s not known how long it will take.
If the zoo’s older elephant Kashin dies before the regulations are written, her younger companion Burma may have to be sent overseas to live with other elephants.
“They are intelligent and social animals. She couldn’t be on her own a long period of time,” says Mr Wilcken.
Kashin, 40, has arthritis and although she is responding well to treatment, it’s uncertain how much longer she’ll live.
“We’ve been pretty up front in flagging the fact that it wouldn’t surprise us if Kashin didn’t last too much longer,” says Mr Wilcken.
The zoo expects to need to import a companion for Burma within the next five years.
There are also plans to import two breeding males in 2013 and 2015 and two breeding females in the two years following that to create a herd.
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry spokeswoman Helen Keyes says the zoo’s application for import health standards was submitted to be considered under this year’s prioritisation process.
The process determines which new items can be included in the ministry’s work programme for the next two years.
The final list of items will be decided by June, she says.
At its combined committees meeting last week, the Auckland City Council confi its support for a herd of elephants.
Mayor John Banks said the zoo could not have just one elephant if Kashin died and even two elephants was not enough.
But the council won’t be funding all of the $13 million and ongoing operational costs needed for the herd, and resolved that it be raised from both government and private sources.
It will also contribute to putting together the fundraising campaign.
The amount it will provide will be decided at the combined committees’ June meeting, after the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance report has determined future governance and related responsibilities of the zoo.