Jumbo tussle

OFF TO AUSTRALIA: But no, not so fast.   | Photo Credit: PHOTO: AP


Eight Asian elephants in Thailand are at the centre of a tug-of-war with the Thai government, Australian zoo officials on one side and animal rights activists on the other. The animals were to have been transported to Taronga Zoo and Melbourne Zoo in Victoria State as part of a captive breeding programme, but activists, who protested that the animals would suffer in zoos, and villagers blocked the trucks carrying them. They also said that the programme would not help preserve the species. The elephants, bought from different owners, had been kept in quarantine in Thailand for more than a year as groups in both countries tried to prevent the transfer. Soraida Salwala, founder of the Thai group Friends of the Asian Elephant, told news agency AP, "Elephants are a Thai national symbol. I don't see why we have to send our animals to other countries." Australian officials expressed surprise at the attitude, especially since the zoos had spent millions of dollars to create special facilities for the animals. While Thai authorities insist that they would go ahead with the memorandum of understanding signed with Australia in 2004, the zoos spokespersons have not said what will happen to the elephants. AP also quoted Australian Environment Minister Ian Campbell as saying that with fewer than 50,000 Asian elephants in the wild, "every attempt must be made to ensure the survival of the species, including through captive breeding programmes."