Zoo’s big de­ci­sion

Central Leader - - Front Page - By Heather McCracken

OF­FI­CIALS are fac­ing the prospect of Auck­land Zoo without ele­phants.

Plans are be­ing de­vel­oped for the fu­ture of young Asian ele­phant Burma, who couldn’t re­main on her own if Kashin died.

There are no im­me­di­ate con­cerns about the older ele­phant, who turns 40 this year.

But zoo di­rec­tor Jonathan Wil­cken says de­ci­sions need to be made in ad­vance on whether to bring more ele­phants to New Zealand or send Burma away.

“Kashin’s ap­proach­ing 40 and for some time now she’s been treated for a few things, arthri­tis and chronic joint prob­lems,” he says.

“This has prompted us to start think­ing about the fu­ture and our re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to Burma.”

The pair are New Zealand’s only Asian ele­phants, and are so­cial and in­tel­li­gent an­i­mals who need com­pany.

Kashin was the sole ele­phant at Auck­land Zoo from 1973 un­til Burma ar­rived in 1990.

The younger an­i­mal, now aged 25, is ex­pected to out­live her zoo-mate by many years.

Op­tions be­ing con­sid­ered for her fu­ture in­clude buy­ing more ele­phants, a long and com­plex process, or find­ing her a new home over­seas.

“We’re just at the beginning of the con­tin­gency plan­ning process,” Mr Wil­cken says.

“It’s not a straight-for­ward process and it would take some time.

“It takes a long time to find and bring in ele­phants, and they’ve got to be the right ones.”

He says the zoo’s ele­phant man­age­ment pro­gramme is highly re­garded, and the an­i­mals are a ma­jor vis­i­tor at­trac­tion.

The zoo board con­sid­ered a con­fi­den­tial item at its meet­ing on Au­gust 1 on the “strate­gic im­pli­ca­tions of re­tain­ing ele­phants at Auck­land Zoo”.

Chair­man Bill Chris­tian says no de­ci­sions were made be­cause there are no im­me­di­ate con­cerns over Kashin’s health.

“The de­ci­sion we made, un­der ad­vice from the zoo keeper and di­rec­tor, was we’re in a wait-and-see mode,” he says.

“We’re not go­ing to ad­vise any­thing to the mayor or coun­cil about pro­cure­ment of an­other ele­phant or release of Burma.

“My read­ing of the mat­ter is we’ve got no rea­son to panic at the mo­ment.”

Photo: JA­SON OX­EN­HAM

Bo­som bud­dies: Auck­land Zoo’s two fe­male Asian ele­phants Burma and Kashin.

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