Auckland Zoo, the biggest zoo in New Zealand, on Thursday decided to move the country’s only two elephants to Australia to give them both the family herd they need for their long-term wellbeing.
The two female Asian elephants, Anjalee (14) and Burma (38), will be moving to new homes at welfare accredited zoos in Australia later this year, Xinhua news agency quoted the Zoo as saying.
Anjalee will join the herd at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo and Burma will head to Australia Zoo to join their all-female herd.
“We will always put the welfare of animals first, and these moves are all about meeting the needs and ensuring the best long-term outcomes for Anjalee and Burma - two very different elephants at different life stages, with different needs. This includes giving Anjalee, whose biological clock is ticking, every opportunity to breed," said Auckland Zoo director Kevin Buley.
“We’ve been working hard with our Australian colleagues and the Asian elephant breeding program to ensure the needs of both animals are met now and in the future. It’s because those needs are very different for each elephant that our own elephant specialists and vets have chosen separate homes for Anjalee and Burma."
At Taronga Western Plains Zoo, Anjalee will be integrated into a family herd of two cows and one calf, and three bulls, giving her the very best opportunity to breed, which is important to her long-term reproductive health and wellbeing.
Meanwhile Burma, who at 38 can no longer breed, will join the herd of four females at Australia Zoo (Queensland) where she will have the opportunity to play her natural role of ‘aunty’ to the herd’s younger females.
To make the process of integration easier for Anjalee and Burma, Auckland Zoo vets and staff will travel with them.
The elephant keepers, all of whom have years of experience and close relationships with both elephants, will share staying on at Taronga Western Plains and Australia Zoo respectively, providing Anjalee and Burma with that reassuringly familiar presence as they work with their Australian colleagues to fully settle the two elephants in.
“We are still devastated by the reality that we will no longer have elephants in New Zealand, and we know many in our community are feeling the same. Burma and Anjalee are extraordinary animals that have helped inspire millions of people to care about and act for wildlife and the environment," said Buley.
“However, as always, we must put the needs of the animals first, and we are both relieved and excited to have secured such wonderful new homes for both elephants that will ensure they will have the very best long-term futures."