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Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell
2 November 2006
The Australian Government Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, has asked for restraint from animal liberation groups as eight Asian elephants finally complete their long journey from Thailand to Taronga and Melbourne zoos.
The elephants - including Pak Boong (Morning Glory), Tang Mo (Watermelon) and the young male Gung (Prawn) - have been held at the quarantine facilities on Cocos Island for the past three months, awaiting the final leg of the journey to Australia
"The elephants have passed their health tests with flying colours and their Australian keepers have had a great opportunity to bond with these magnificent animals," Senator Campbell said.
The Minister made his comments as he welcomed the first of the eight Asian elephants as they arrived at their new home.
"I thank the Thai people for allowing Australians this chance - elephants are iconic to the Thai people in the same way that Australian native species such as kangaroos and koalas are to us."
"It's important though that we don't see a repeat of the protests and blockades in Thailand in July which brought distress to the very creatures the protesters were purporting to be concerned about."
"The importation of the elephants will allow the two zoos to undertake important captive breeding programmes to help ensure the continued survival of Asian elephants."
"Asian elephants have now had a long history of being kept in zoos and we have an increasingly good understanding of what needs to be done to keep them happy and comfortable."
The zoos have created special habitats for the elephants, which include enlarged enclosures featuring special design elements such as sleeping mounds and mud wallows. Other animal welfare provisions include exercise requirements and round-the-clock closed circuit TV monitoring.
The import approval under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 was conditional on zoos meeting a series of animal welfare provisions, and the zoos are required to provide ongoing reports to the Department of the Environment and Heritage on the elephants' welfare.
"I encourage Australians to visit the elephants and say 'g'day' to welcome them to Australia," Senator Campbell said.
Rob Broadfield 02 6277 7640 or 0409 493 902