Animal welfare organisations, including the NSPCA, have expressed outrage over the zoo’s decision to introduce two new elephants to accompany Lammie instead of releasing the almost 40-year-old pachyderm into a sanctuary.
Kinkel, her previous companion, died in September last year.
But Johannesburg Zoo spokesperson Jenny Moodley said Lammie and the new additions, 21-year- old male Ramadiba and a 19-year- old female named Mopane, were all coping well since they were brought to the elephant enclosure a week ago.
“On the day the new elephants arrived, Lammie was a bit withdrawn, but she soon started interacting with them and there was even an exchange of their trunks as well as rumbles from all of them, which is a good sign,” said Moodley.
Moodley explained that it was custom to initially keep the new elephants apart from Lammie and to introduce them in phases, as they did not want to overwhelm her.
“We had to go through the process of keeping them apart until they are ready to fully reintegrate.
“We will do it in phases where we will allow one of the new elephants at a time to interact with Lammie.”
Moodley said the elephant was best suited for the zoo as she had never lived in the wild.
“She is only familiar with these surroundings - from her diet to the cleaning of her area - all her needs are taken care of.
“She also has one very small tusk which means she will not be able to defend herself if she is challenged in a new herd in the wild.”
The new elephants were acquired from a reserve in the Eastern Cape.
In response to criticism about the lack of space for the three elephants to roam, Moodley explained that their enclosure was the size of Ellis Park Stadium’s fields.
Moodley added that the Johannesburg Zoo had the best interest of its animals at heart and constant criticism “undermines” staff at the facility.
“Allegations that we don’t have the expertise undermines the professionals who work at the Joburg Zoo.
“They are at the forefront of protecting and managing the well- being and welfare of these animals.”