DURBAN - Thirteen of the world’s most respected elephant behavioural specialists and researchers have supported calls to release Lammie to a rewilding facility.
In an open letter to the mayor, and to the Johannesburg Zoo director, Bryne Maduka, the experts say they “aim to correct some of the misinformation that has been circulated” by zoo management.
“The zoo states they have consulted with ‘specialists’ regarding Lammie, but none of (these) elephant specialists have been consulted.”
Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba has so far ignored the furore over the city zoo’s only remaining elephant despite being called on to intervene.
The letter requests a meeting with the city management and the elephant “specialists” that the zoo claims to have consulted.
It is signed by 13 specialists affiliated with the Elephant Reintegration Trust, Humane Society International, Elephant Specialist Advisory Group, Elephant Voices, Bring the Elephant Home, Amboseli Trust for Elephants, the University of Stirling, Elephants Alive and Elephants for Africa.
The experts argue that neither Lammie’s welfare nor the collective welfare of elephant conservation in the wild is supported by the keeping of a single, lone elephant in captivity.
“Lammie’s right to express normal behaviour is clearly and entirely missing,” they say, despite claims by the zoo that she is doing well.
The zoo’s claims of a “tailored behaviour enrichment regime which encourages natural behaviours” also falls short, they believe.
Observers noted that Lammie spent most her time just standing in front of the wall.
“No staff were seen spending time with her. They were only seen going to the enclosure to give her food and then left without any interaction,” the letter adds.
“There is nothing in the enclosure other than a few fixed tyres, which she was never seen interacting with.”
Limited visitor interest in Lammie further illustrates that her role in education and the zoo’s claim that she is acting as an ambassador for her species is “false, misleading and educates the public incorrectly”.
The observers say figures show that more than 50% of people just walked past Lammie’s enclosure without stopping, 43% stood for a short while and only 6.6% sat down to watch Lammie.
When they did, they only spent an average of 2.46 minutes doing so.
The NSPCA’s trade and trafficking manager, Karen Trendler, said last week that the organisation was “being used as window dressing” in the zoo’s PR exploits regarding Lammie.
The NSPCA resigned from the zoo’s ethics committee with immediate effect, as they “were not included in either decisions or discussions on this critical, controversial issue that has both welfare and ethical implications”.
Two petitions calling for Lammie’s release to a sanctuary have garnered almost 300000 signatures.