Elephant News from Israel
- The loneliest animal in the zoo:
Elephants are sociable creatures who live in herds. At the Safari in
Ramat Gan there is a veteran herd of elephants, but in recent months,
a female elephant called La Petite has been living alongside them in
an isolated cage. She was rejected by her friends and distanced from
the herd. Animal rights activists claim that a new home could have
been found for the elephant, but the administration of the Safari did
not take advantage of this possibility, and continues to keep her in
isolation, which is harmful to her welfare.
La Petite, a 19-year-old Asiatic elephant, joined the herd in the
Safari after a hard life in the circus and in zoos in Europe, during
which she apparently suffered from abuse. This led to an incident
during which she killed one of her keepers. The Safari in Ramat Gan
agreed to take her in, because in this zoo there is no direct contact
between the elephants and the keepers.
At first the elephant was welcomed into the herd, but she attacked a
calf to which she had given birth and as a result began to stay away
from her friends. At the Safari they say that she tried to be
reaccepted into the herd, but a few months ago, the elephants
attacked her and endangered her life. As a result, she was
transferred to an isolated cage, where she has almost no room to move
and has no connection with other elephants.
Animal rights activists and members of the Society for the Prevention
of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in Tel Aviv tried to intervene on behalf
of La Petite and to find her a new home. To that end, they contacted
a large elephant sanctuary in Tennessee, where there are female
The director of the refuge, Carol Buckley, recently told the Safari
they would agree to taking La Petite immediately. "The isolation
damages her health and the possibility that she will form ties in the
future with keepers and other elephants," said Buckley. "In our
sanctuary, the elephants have access to forests, streams and a lake."
She also offered to help with the cost of transporting La Petite and
getting the permits to bring her to the United States.
The director of the Safari, Yehuda Bar, thanked Buckley for her
offer, but claimed that the Safari was working to find a solution for
the elephant in a European zoo. This is because the Safari is a
member of an organization that promotes the propagation of Asiatic
elephants. "The organization is interested in having the elephant
transferred to a zoo in Europe, where she can give birth again," said
the Safari spokeswoman. "The propagation of Asiatic elephants is
important, because this is an animal in danger of extinction.
Recently, a solution was found for her in a zoo in Belgium, and we
are working to transfer her."
A spokesman for the SPCA in Tel Aviv, Gadi Vitner, said that the
administration of the Safari is causing untold damage to La Petite by
keeping her in conditions of quarantine, when there is an available
solution for her - in Tennessee - which would enable her to move to a
wide open area. "First they say that they will send her to France,
and now they are saying that they will send her to Belgium," said
Vitner. "Meanwhile she continues to be imprisoned unjustifiably."
He believes that one of the factors that prevented the transfer of La
Petite to the United States is the competition between zoos and large
animal preserves, which offer a different method of housing wild
"I'm not an expert on elephants, but clearly an elephant with such a
sad history should not be kept in isolation for a prolonged period,"
said zoologist Avinoam Luria, who used to be in charge of raising
wild animals in the Israel Nature and National Parks Protection
Authority. He added that "the INPA must be involved in this case,
because it has a duty to see to the welfare of all wild animals."
By Zafir Rinat -- Haaretz, Israel -- 31/10/05
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