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article imageSwaziland plans to relocate 18 elephants to American zoos

By Kesavan Unnikrishnan     Feb 7, 2016 in Environment
Swaziland is planning to transfer 18 wild elephants in a Boeing 747 plane to United States in order to relocate them to three American zoos. In exchange, the zoos will be contributing $450,000 to a wildlife conservation trust in Swaziland for rhinos.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has approved an application from zoos in Dallas, Wichita and Omaha to import 18 wild elephants from Swaziland.The transfer involves 15 female and three male elephants estimated to range from six to 25 years old.
The permit allows a partnership formed by the zoos to import the elephants from Big Game Parks, an independent nonprofit that manages several wildlife parks in the Southern African Nation. Swaziland, which is facing its worst drought in decades, was planning to kill the animals as a population control measure because the growing elephant herd was endangering other animals such as rhinos.
Room for Rhinos, a partnership between the zoos and Swaziland officials, is overseeing the project. Melissa Graham, a spokeswoman of Kansas Zoo said:
The plan to move them to the United States is a pragmatic and humane solution to help balance this environment and provide a home to elephants that need one, while at the same time expands a critically needed rhino conservation program. Zoo partnership had not paid for the animals but it was contributing $450,000 over five years to a wildlife conservation trust in Swaziland for rhinos.
Dennis Pate, President/CEO of Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo said:
We will be flying them here on a 747 plane that's a freighter.The maximum number it can take is 18 animals.
However, many conservationists and scientists have voiced their opposition to the plan. A statement signed by over 70 ecologists, elephant and animal welfare experts’ highlighted concerns over the elephants’ welfare. The statement read:
Elephants are highly intelligent, sensitive, and social. That they suffer in captivity is beyond serious debate. We should always strive for the best, most humane alternative for their care and survival. For the “Swazi 18” this means, at a minimum, remaining on the continent of their birth in conditions of safety and greatest practical freedom.
Last year, Zimbabwe sent 20 elephants to zoos in China despite protests from many conservationists and rights groups.
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