Minister of Zoos adopts Flora the elephant abuse victim

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The Independent Online
AN MP will be putting a new declaration in the register of members' interests to explain his gift of an elephant. Alan Meale, the Environment minister, has "adopted" Flora, anelephant that was rescued after a court heard that she was badly treated in a case involving Mary Chipperfield. But the cost of the first year of adoption is being given to Mr Meale as a gift - and so it will go onto the members' register of interests.

Mr Meale,who has responsibility for zoo licensing, was touched by the story of the female African elephant when he made a ministerial visit to Dudley Zoo, West Midlands, where she is making a strong recovery.

He agreed to pay pounds 60 a year to help with the cost of keeping Flora in return for being able to visit her with his family whenever he wishes, and a plaque is being put up outside her enclosure.

The minister has put up a certificate about Flora in his office at the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions, and will get regular bulletins on her condition - including on her birthday and at Christmas." Peter Suddock, the chief executive of Dudley Zoo,said: "He came round with the local MP, Ross Cranston (Labour, Dudley North) to have a look around the site to see the things we are doing for conservation and education.

"He is very keen on animal welfare and we thought it would be a nice touch to join the adoption scheme." Other people have adopted wildlife ranging from stick insects to lions.

Flora was one of the elephants named at Andover Magistrates Court in January when Mary Chipperfield and her husband, Roger Cawley, were convicted of causing unnecessary suffering to animals. They will be sentenced on 9 April. The court heard Flora was forced to perform tricks when she was ill.

Mr Suddock said his zoo took the unusual step of buying Flora to avoid her going to a circus in Spain. A vets' report this week said she had made a "significant improvement" in her health.

She is being used at the zoo in helping to teach children the importance of protecting elephants in the wild in developing countries.

Mr Meale was given a note confirming that his first year's "adoption" of Flora was a gift so that he could record it in the members' interests register, but in future years he will have to pay. His Department said: "It's a personal matter."

His boss, John Prescott, the Secretary of State at the Department, is also be awarded a zoological gold medal, previously held by David Attenburgh, for his contribution to the sustainable environment. Chester Zoo, near to the village of Upton, where Mr Prescott grew up, is inviting him to accept the award later this year. They have a pounds 1.8m investment from Jaguar cars for their jaguar cats project.