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