Prote­sets leave zoo ele­phant in limbo

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A baby ele­phant des­tined for Auck­land Zoo has been stopped from leav­ing Sri Lanka fol­low­ing protests from animal rights ac­tivists.

Nandi, a six-year-old fe­male ele­phant from Pin­nawala Ele­phant Or­phan­age, was gifted to New Zealand by Sri Lankan Pres­i­dent Maithri­pala Sirisena in Colombo in Fe­bru­ary 2016.

A zoo spokes­woman said at the time that it was the ’’next step in a long-stand­ing and care­fully planned pro­gramme of co­op­er­a­tion be­tween Auck­land Zoo and Sri Lankan authorities’’.

Nandi, who was born in cap­tiv­ity, was the right age and had the right tem­per­a­ment to be re­homed, the spokes­woman said.

How­ever, ac­tivists in Sri Lanka ar­gued that Nandi would find it dif­fi­cult to be sep­a­rated from her fam­ily and adapt to New Zealand’s cli­mate.

The Star On­line re­ported that the ac­tivists se­cured a ‘‘tem­po­rary vic­tory’’ on Fri­day, when a Sri Lankan court was as­sured by the gov­ern­ment that Nandi would not be taken out of the coun­try un­til a fi­nal de­ci­sion on the case was made later in April.

Ac­tivist and Bud­dhist monk Omalpe So­bitha told AFP that Asian ele­phants had ‘‘very strong fam­ily ties’’, and re­mov­ing a baby ele­phant was re­garded as a ‘‘sin’’.

Nandi’s ar­rival would have brought Auck­land Zoo’s ele­phant herd to three.

An­jalee, who is also from Sri Lanka’s Pin­nawala Ele­phant Or­phan­age, ar­rived in 2015, while Burma, who is orig­i­nally from Myan­mar, has been at the zoo since 1990.

Zoo di­rec­tor Jonathan Wil­cken said in 2016 that Nandi’s trans­fer to New Zealand could be a boon for the world’s Asian ele­phant pop­u­la­tion.

They are fu­ture herd.’’

On Sun­day, Wil­cken said the zoo did not know the de­tails of the court case, but was look­ing for­ward to wel­com­ing Nandi and con­tin­u­ing to strengthen its close work­ing re­la­tion­ship with Sri Lanka.

RE­BEKAH PAR­SONS-KING/FAIR­FAX NZ

Asian ele­phant Nandi was to join An­jalee, pic­tured, and Burma at Auck­land Zoo.

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