Ramnifications after the accident at Taronga Zoo, Sydney

On January 15th, the Taronga Conservation Society Australia, which runs the Taronga Zoo in Sydney and the Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, published its conclusions after an internal investigation regarding the attack of 2-year-old bull calf “Pathi Harn” that almost killed a keeper in October last year. According to the review, the accident was the result of an unexpected spike in his testosterone levels; neither the elephant keepers, the safety protocols nor the facility design were at fault. Given the blatant denial of responsibility, it is positively surprising that the Taronga Conservation Society still plans to change the management system for all elephants in both zoos to “protected contact” by mid-2013, not just for the young males affected by rising testosterone levels. After the accident, Elefanten-Schutz-Europa sent a letter to the zoo director, the responsible minister and the WorkCover Authority NSW. According to the answer from WorkCover Authority NSW, the zoo thinks it is necessary to specifically prepare their elephants in “free contact” before switching over to “protected contact”.

Due to the fact that Taronga Zoo´s new elephant faciliies are too small for a breeding group, the management changes will cause significant problems. According to the sentence of the Administrative Appeal Tribunal from February 6th, 2006, Taronga Zoo was only granted permission to import the 5 elephants from Thailand on condition to regularly walk the elephants outside the enclosure. In addition, the zoo had to ensure that bull elephant “Gung” would have an opportunity to regularly socialize with the females even after his move into the bull facility, which is located several hundred meters away from the main elephant exhibit. After the change to “protected contact”, physical contact between the bull and the females will be impossible, unless a crate is used regularly. Therefore, the zoo has now announced to move all bull elephants from Sydney - „Gung“ (born 2000), „Luk Chai“ (born 2009) and „Pathi Harn“ (born 2010) to the Western Plains Zoo/Dubbo. Elefanten-Schutz Europa believes that due to the lack of space at Taronga, the whole breeding group of Asian elephants should be transferred to the spacious park at Dubbo, while the facilities at Taronga zoo might be acceptable for a small group of non-breeding females or young bulls.

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