Alice Masombuka with Lammie the elephant at the Johannesburg Zoo, which is considering whether to replace a 35-year-old male elephant that died at the park called Kinkel, who was born in the wild in 1983. Matthews Baloyi African News Agency (ANA)
Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo (JCPZ) has rubbished public claims made this week by the National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) that the entity is bringing in another elephant as a companion for the only remaining elephant at the zoo, Lammie.

Kinkel, the other elephant housed at the zoo, died earlier this year.

JCPZ spokesperson Jenny Moodley said no decision had yet been made over whether another elephant would be brought in or not.

The entity said it would not entertain discussions over the “unfounded” claims by the NSPCA.

Karen Trendler, the manager of the NSPCA’s Wildlife Trade and Trafficking portfolio, said: “The captive environment for elephants at the Johannesburg Zoo is detrimental to any elephant’s well-being. The NSPCA was informed that the decision was approved by the City of Joburg, which is run by the DA.

“Both the Johannesburg Zoo and the DA profess to believe in and uphold the five freedoms, an ethos which outlines basic animal welfare, yet the decision to introduce another elephant into a facility that does not meet these freedoms, has been considered acceptable by both the Johannesburg Zoo and the DA.

“The NSPCA will secure a humane alternative that is not only beneficial for the well-being of their remaining elephant, Lammie, but would also stop the endless and redundant cycle of continuously condemning elephants to captivity for many years to come.

“The NSPCA will continue to fight for Lammie and every other elephant that may be doomed to a life of captivity. We believe that moving Lammie to an approved sanctuary would be far more beneficial for her welfare.

“We have expressed our opinion to the Johannesburg Zoo as well as the City of Johannesburg’s mayor, Herman Mashaba,” said Trendler, adding that the NSPCA was challenging the DA to uplift Lammie’s welfare and make the correct decision to move Lammie to an appropriate and accredited sanctuary.

However, the city member of the mayoral committee for community development, Nonhlanhla Sifumba, earlier said the world needed zoos - and now more than ever.

With diminishing forests, unrelenting poaching, the threat of climate change and rising numbers of endangered and extinct species, facilities like the Joburg zoo had become critical havens for animal conservation and education, Sifumba said.

Good zoos supported field projects and worked to protect the wild and also played a critical role in fighting extinction as well as acting as sanctuaries for some injured animals due to poaching, she said.

Kinkel, the elephant who recently died, was rescued in the wild in 2000 after his trunk was caught in a snare. Lammie, Sifumba said, was being closely monitored by her caregivers to ensure that the Joburg Zoo adopted a proper management plan that would give priority to her health and wellbeing.

A 2010 study by International Union for Conservation of Nature found that conservation breeding in zoos and aquariums had played a role in the recovery of 28% of the species listed as threatened in the wild, she added.