Auckland Zoo is rehoming its elephants – Burma and Anjalee – so they can live with a family herd.
The two female Asian elephants have become fixtures of the zoo – often sighted by those walking the neighbouring Western Springs Park.
Auckland Zoo director Kevin Buley said it was a hard decision to make but both elephants needed a family herd for their long-term wellbeing.
“Over the past five years, changing circumstances beyond our control mean that we are no longer in a position to give them the long-term future they need,” Buley said.
“Our two elephants are such an important part of our zoo whānau and we know how much they also mean to the millions of people that have found a connection with them and followed their lives with us over recent years,” he said.
“I think we’ve all heard the phrase that, ‘the right decision is often the hardest one to make’, many, many times before, but I’ve never really felt it to the extent that I do today … However, we know that for their long-term well-being we now need to put our own feelings aside and do the right thing by them both.”
Buley said Anjalee needed to have a baby soon to avoid long-term reproductive health troubles which elephants face if they do not breed.
In 2011, the zoo had committed – with support from Auckland Council – to build an elephant family herd.
However, five artificial insemination attempts over the past three years failed to get the 14-year-old elephant pregnant. The zoo said further attempts were no longer possible in New Zealand.
Another female elephant was expected to arrive from Sri Lanka shortly after Anjalee in 2015, but this also did not eventuate.
“Having exhausted all current possibilities to breed her here at Auckland Zoo, we will now work to move her to another accredited zoo programme where she can live in a multi-generational family herd,” Buley said.
“There she will be able to mate naturally with a bull elephant and have the best possible chance of eventually having her own elephant calf.”
It’s expected Burma and Anjalee will be moved by mid 2021.
Buley said the team caring for the duo would travel with them to their new home “for as long as is needed” to work with keepers until they settled in.