'Cruel' treatment of elephants in zoos must stop, says RSPCA

A A A

No more elephants should be imported into Britain, the RSPCA has said, calling for the animals to be phased out from British zoos.

Recent research has shown that they were suffering from severe welfare problems which range from lameness and obesity to obsessive behaviour, and that it was inappropriate and cruel to keep them in confinement, the society said.

The RSPCA was reacting angrily to a report from the Government's own advisory committee, the Zoos Forum, which endorsed the research findings on welfare problems, but stopped short of calling for an elephant ban.

Britain has 70 elephants in captivity, made up of 37 Asian elephants and 33 of the larger African species. They are being kept in 13 zoos, with the highest numbers being 12 at Howletts Wild Animal Park in Kent, 10 at Chester Zoo, and eight at Whipsnade Zoo near Dunstable in Befordshire, the companion park to London Zoo, which stopped keeping elephants on its 35-acre site in Regent's Park in 2001 when its three remaining animals were transferred to the more spacious Whipsnade.

Two years ago, a group of senior researchers from Bristol University visited all 13 establishments and made a detailed study of elephant welfare, housing and husbandry in them, which raised grave concerns.

The study said that although the zoos were aware of the problems and were continually trying to "enrich and improve" the elephants' lives, there were serious problems. These included difficulties with their feet, their gait and their weight, while nearly 50 per cent of the Asian elephants and 25 per cent of the African animals performed stereotypic behaviours – repetitive, unvarying and apparently functionless actions that indicate distress.

But the study concerned itself merely merely with welfare and made no policy recommendations about zoo elephants in general – a task which had been left to the Government's independent advisory body, the Zoos Forum, which has a wide range of membership, including zoo personnel.

Yesterday the forum published its own report on the welfare study, and acknowledged that the problems needed to be tackled "vigorously".

It set out four "options for the way forward". These were firstly to remove elephants from the UK, secondly to manage the national herd to extinction, thirdly to continue to breed but cease imports, and fourthly a concerted improvement programme. The report is guarded in its verdict but it seems most inclined to the fourth option.

However, it should have opted for the import ban and the "managing to extinction" strategy, the society said. "We are extremely disappointed that the report did not recommend an outright ban on importing elephants to UK zoos," said RSPCA scientist Dr Ros Clubb.

"The RSPCA believes that until solutions to the extensive and serious welfare problems can be found we should not be introducing more elephants. Elephants are without question suffering in zoos.

"Adding yet more to an ailing population simply masks the problems, and if drastic improvements to them cannot be found, the RSPCA believes zoos should phase out elephant keeping."

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
football
News
Tangerine Dream Edgar Froese
people
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Life and Style
The Oliver twins, Philip and Andrew, at work creating the 'Dizzy' arcade-adventure games in 1988
techDocumentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Arts and Entertainment
Krall says: 'My hero player-singer is Elton John I used to listen to him as a child, every single record
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
News
i100
Environment
Number so freshwater mussels in Cumbria have plummeted from up to three million in the 20th century to 500,000
environment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us