Ele­phants a big is­sue

Auckland City Harbour News - - News - By Janie Smith

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.

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