Plans afoot for European elephant sanctuary

Born Free has recently announced its intentions to construct a captive elephant rescue facility in Europe. 

For elephants in zoos and circuses life is a miserable existence. In the wild African elephants will typically roam between 10-15km per day and their home range is infinitely bigger than this even, stretching up to 11,000 square kilometres in some cases. Elephants are highly sociable animals with close family ties. In the wild they live in matriarchal societies, raise their calves together and bond for life.

In Europe alone there are over 40 captive elephants living in solitary confinement.

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Tania, aged 39, pictured at T̢rgu Mures Zoo in Romania Рjust one of the 40 captive elephants in Europe that Born Free hopes to be able to relocate.

“Born Free intends not only to press ahead with our own plans for rescuing elephants and constructing a state-of-the art sanctuary facility in Europe , but also to coordinate our work with other facilities to ensure the best possible outcome for captive elephants worldwide”.

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Highly sociable and prolific roamers, elephants travel in large herds and can cover up to 15km a day.

Virginia McKenna OBE, founder and trustee of Born Free Foundation equates the cramped and filthy living conditions to which the majority of the world’s zoo elephants are subjected, to asking us to live in our bathroom!! These animals were not put on this earth for us to exhibit and exploit – elephants are emotionally complex and sentient beings with the capacity to feel grief and joy, sadness and elation. They are playful and inquisitive and in the wild, their lives are governed by interaction with others. A ball or swinging punchbag is not stimuli enough for any animal, let alone one as intellectually complex as an elephant. Of course, for many of these captive elephants, a return to the wild is just not feasible. But there is hope. Together we can help the Born Free Foundation provide a sanctuary where these victims of human greed can LEARN TO BE ELEPHANTS AGAIN!! Click here to find out more and donate to help build the sanctuary or watch the video, ‘An Elephant In The Room’.

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Research suggests that primitive elephants were semi-aquatic spending much of their time in water. Modern elephants spend much of their time cooling, bathing and swimming in water also.

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Meal Times Are Spicing Up For Chirundu Elephants

It’s not just poaching that poses a threat to our beautiful elephants. In both India and Africa human-elephant conflict (HEC) is on the rise due primarily to the expansion of human settlements into wildlife areas. Elephants are increasingly entering urbanised areas in search of food and wreaking havoc as they go. Governments and HEC management officials have been advocating the use of chilli as a non-lethal preventative measure for a number of years. Many ‘chilli-based’ projects have met with success including the Chirundu Elephant Programme in Zimbabwe – the DEGTH? team has been following their progress…

Projectile "guns"

Projectile “guns”

The programme started all because of one “problem” elephant named Hop-a-Long. He was in conflict with local residents and had started to damage both public and private property – officials determined that he would be destroyed next time he ‘crossed the line’. The Chirundu Elephant Programme was founded and joined forces with HEC officials and Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife to attempt a rather wacky sounding alternative solution – chilli loaded ping pong balls! On hitting the elephant, the casing breaks and releases a chilli mixture onto the elephant’s skin – the mixture is an irritant but the effect is temporary and, with repetition, it is hoped that the elephants will be deterred from entering the town which they will come to associate with the discomfort.

In Early November 2014, armed with three chilli-guns and advice from veteran elephant expert Mike La Grange, the team hit the streets. It soon became clear that Hop-a-Long was not the only troublesome elephant… this would be a bigger undertaking than first thought!

Loading the balls with the chilli mixture

Loading the balls with the chilli mixture

Within the first few days they were achieving small successes with the chilli projectiles. Those shot with the chilli immediately retreated out of town but, unfortunately, not all stayed out! Hop-a-Long and another large bull were deterred for over a week but have started to reappear increasingly often in the last few days. The other of the big bulls with “problem” status is particularly persistent. He has been dubbed ‘chilli-boy’ by the team! On a positive note all the elephants’ behaviour has changed and now they only need to see the 4x4s before they pack their trunks – so to speak! This is a huge leap in the right direction as these elephants had become worryingly habituated to the hustle and bustle of town life. The process will be a long one but initial results are promising and the team continue to work around the clock to save the elephants. After only 1 month there is currently no lethal threat to the three “problem” elephants and no more elephants have been given “problem” status – RESULT! Keep up the great work saving these amazing, emotional beings, Chirundu Elephant Programme.

Dinner – the way nature intended it!

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