Protesets leave zoo elephant in limbo
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.
Asian elephant Nandi was to join Anjalee, pictured, and Burma at Auckland Zoo.