Senior RSPCA scientists have criticised a new report on the welfare of zoo elephants which, they claim, should have called for an outright ban on importing any more of the majestic creatures into UK zoos.

Senior RSPCA scientists have criticised a new report on the welfare of zoo elephants which, they claim, should have called for an outright ban on importing any more of the majestic creatures into UK zoos.
 
Bristol University found serious and extensive welfare problems in  UK zoo elephants
The report from the Zoo’s Forum (an independent body set up by DEFRA) was published yesterday (Aug 19) and reviews a 2008 study by Bristol University, which found serious and extensive welfare problems in UK zoo elephants.
 
Researchers claimed that, as well as having a far shorter life-span and higher infant mortality rate than wild elephants, those kept in UK zoos suffer from:

  • High levels of obesity;
  • Behavioural abnormalities; and
  • A level of lameness equivalent to that endured by intensively farmed livestock.

 
Senior RSPCA scientist Ros Clubb said: “We are extremely disappointed that the [Zoo’s Forum] report did not recommend an outright ban on importing elephants to UK zoos. 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. They are one of the highest animal welfare concerns in Europe. Their levels of lameness are on a par to those seen in intensively farmed dairy cattle or broiler chickens”

Approximately 25% of populations of broiler chickens and dairy cattle have lameness scores of 3 or above – equivalent to “obvious limp or severely lame” in the elephants studied by Bristol University researchers. This superficial analysis suggests elephants are as unhealthy as some intensively farmed livestock.

Dr Clubb went on: “Adding yet more elephants to an ailing population simply masks the problems and if drastic improvements to these problems cannot be found, the RSPCA believes zoos should phase out elephant keeping.
 
“However, the RSPCA does support the report’s recommendation to establish an independent advisory group that would monitor the welfare of elephants in zoos. It feels that it is vital this advisory group is independent and it should draw on expertise from outside the zoo world.”
 
Both reports are available to read in full:

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