Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Free Susi

18 February 2009

Categories: Homepage News, Elephants Campaign News, Zoo Check Campaign News

Animal welfare organisations and international wildlife experts call on Barcelona zoo to free Susi, the lone African elephant.

Susi stands motionless, seemingly disinterested in the world around her bare concrete and earth yard. She has no companions, other than the giraffes in the adjoining enclosure. Precariously she leans over the dry moat trying to snatch a morsel of greenery.

Susi was captured from the wilds of Africa 36 years ago. She now lives alone, her skin unnaturally dry and crusty, in the middle of Barcelona Zoo.

At a time when many scientists, conservationists and members of the public reject the keeping of these large, intelligent animals in zoos, Susi’s situation highlights the plight of elephants in Europe’s zoos. Today, representatives of the Born Free Foundation, an international wildlife charity with expertise in elephant conservation and welfare, arrived in Barcelona to support a campaign by Spanish animal welfare organisations Libera! and FAADA to ‘free’ Susi from her concrete cell.

Daniel Turner, spokesperson for the Born Free Foundation said, “Susi’s situation is unfortunately echoed across the world. One fifth of all the elephants in the 194 zoos for which we have data live alone or with only one other elephant. In the wild, elephants live in related family groups of up to 50 animals”, he explained. “Recently published scientific reports indicate that elephants in zoos are faced with reduced longevity, low breeding rates, psychological disorders and compromised welfare. It seems clear that zoos are simply unable to meet the complex needs of elephants.”

A recent study, commissioned by the UK’s Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), on zoo elephants in the United Kingdom (n=76) revealed that 80% had foot problems, 23% had an obvious limp or were severely lame. Half the elephants studied displayed stereotypical behaviour during the daytime (a recognised indicator of poor welfare). In a further report, elephants in European zoos (in a study covering over 4,500 elephants in zoos, in semi-captive conditions and in the wild since the 1960’s), were shown to live, on average, only half as long as elephants in the wild.

“These studies serve to confirm Born Free Foundation’s long-held conviction that zoos cannot possibly provide for the basic needs of these highly complex, wide-ranging and social animals”, stated Mr Turner. “The phasing-out of the keeping of elephants in zoos is now the only compassionate and viable option - anything less would be a travesty.”

The animal welfare organisations are appealing to the Mayor of Barcelona and the management of the Zoo to accept that Susi’s current predicament fails to provide her with appropriate conditions and to act immediately in her best interests.

Together with Libera! and FAADA, the Born Free Foundation recognises the urgent need to establish Europe’s first elephant sanctuary in order to rehabilitate individually kept animals. However, acknowledging that no such sanctuary facility currently exists, Libera! and FAADA  are reluctantly seeking another captive facility in Europe with better facilities that would deliver higher standards of care for Susi as well as the companionship of other elephants.

Visit the Free Susi Petition site.

Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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