For Immediate Release
Feb. 9, 2016
Mike Harris, director, Wildlife Law Program; 720.949.7791; firstname.lastname@example.org
Jennifer Best, associate director, Wildlife Law Program 720.949.7791; email@example.com
(WASHINGTON, D.C.)—Friends of Animals (FoA) has filed a lawsuit against the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for granting permits to the Dallas Zoo, the Sedwick County Zoo in Kansas, and Omaha, Nebraska’s Henry Doorly Zoo to import 18 African elephants from Swaziland.
If the zoos succeed in their objective, they will be removing more than one third of all the remaining elephants in Swaziland, leaving behind approximately 21.
“The failure here of the U.S. government was to not do a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis that examines the emotional and physical well-being of the 18 animals that are going to be forcefully removed from their homes, families and extended families and brought to the United States and shoved in a zoo,” said Michael Harris, director of Friends of Animals’ Wildlife Law Program, adding that to his knowledge no one has made this challenge in court before.
According to Harris, “USFWS is turning a blind eye to the growing scientific consensus that elephants are highly intelligent, social and emotional beings. The trauma of being ripped from their families in the wild, transported halfway around the world and forced to live the remainder of their lives in captivity will have an everlasting effect on these animals. Evidence shows that they will suffer from depression, anxiousness, mood swings and fear. They also face a high risk of disease and disability. No wonder it has been shown that zoo elephants simply don't live as long as those in the wild.”
The lawsuit states that in issuing a permit for this transfer, USFWS violated its mandatory duty under NEPA to fully evaluate and disclose these impacts to elephants.
Harris pointed out that this type of information, contained within an official government document, could influence USFWS’s own internal review of the permit under various international and federal laws that require one to evaluate whether the proposed transfer would be detrimental to these 18 elephants and/or elephants as a species. This information, publically disclosed, might also impact the decision-making of the zoos, causing them to rethink their actions. Finally, this information might also influence third-party stake holders to invest resources into finding avenues to keep these animals in the wild.
Instead USFWS chose to rubberstamp what is simply a business transaction. The zoos involved have invested more than $25 million in elephant exhibits and need elephants to fill them. Likewise, Swaziland, which is a monarchy run by a king, is looking to make a profit on their sale. And this is not the first time. In 2003, Swaziland sold 11 elephants to U.S. zoos for a profit of about 133,000 U.S. dollars.”
USFWS needs to get its head out of the sand and recognize society’s changing view of captivity that is being fueled by a greater recognition of the detrimental impacts to elephants captive in zoos, circuses and other entertainment-related facilities. Many zoos around the world, including Detroit Zoo and San Francisco Zoo, have closed their elephant exhibits.
For more information, click here to read the official complaint.