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Anti Vivisection Action Network



A letter to demand the refusal of permission of the import of Asian elephants.

2002 October 3d

Mr Takeo Hiranuma
Minister of Economy,Trade and Industry
(competent dept.: Trade and Economic Cooperation Bureau,Agriculture and Marine Products Office)

Mr Shunichi Suzuki
Minister of the Environment
(competent dept.: Nature Conservation Bureau,Wild Life Division,Law and Convention Office )

Dear Sirs,
We, a nation wide association that watches the traffic of wild animals and checks the facilities for animals such as zoos, would like to demand that you refuse to permit the import of 4 Asian elephants from India and Thailand in October because of the following reasons.

1. Concerning the origin of elephants
We heard that 2 baby elephants from India are going to be imported to "Elephant Country Ichihara" on October 5th and that 2 baby elephants from Thailand are also to be imported to Ueno Zoo on October 11th.

Asian elephants are under the regulations of CITES, except when they are subjects of scientific study in zoos, because they are a species under threat of extinction. In the case of Asian elephants.
CITES demands it should be proved that they have not been in the wild for 3 generations.
The zoo said that one of the parents of the elephants from India comes from the wild and the elephants from Thailand were bred in captivity. However, we think that a third agency needs to check if this is true or not. In Thailand they breed elephants after letting them back into the wild. It is doubtful that we can call such elephants complete captivity bred animals.

According to the imformation from Thailand the elephants are owned by a private construction company in Surin. Therefore, it is clear the import has no connection with neither zoos nor scientific study.

We strongly believe that easy import should not be permitted under this situation until investigation has cleared everything, especially the origin of the elephants.

2.Concerning the meaning of "Scientific Study"

The elephants that "Elephant Country in Ichihara" is going to import are wild elephants. Basically import only for scientific study in zoos can be permitted. "Elephant Country in Ichihara" is a trader whose main business is the leasing of animals, and they make elephants do stunts for profit.
Many elephants are kept in small lots there and the welfare of the animals is ignored. We are certain that such a facilitiy can not study elephants in a scientific way.

The Management dept.of CITES says that a condition of getting permission for import is to be a member of Japan Zoo Aquarium Association. However, this association is just a social gathering.Therefore it has no power to advise or to force member facilities.

Japan is one of the few countries that has no laws concerning zoos. Therefore we think the management dept.of CITES should always try to collect the imformation concerning the situation of facilities and the management of zoos so as to be ready for any circumstances.

3.Elephants can not breed in captivity.
In Japanese zoos no Asian elephant has ever been bred. By keeping them we ignore the mentality and the ecology of elephants, that live a highly social life.

Keeping elephants for breeding is considered as scientific study. However,it is extremely difficult to breed them while keeping them in facilities. On the other hand, they can be bred in the wild.It means keeping them in facilities is very unnatural and is not conducive for breeding animals.If they want to study the breeding of elephants ,it should be a good and proper way that researchers go to the field to study the wild ones or half wild ones and observe them.

The old purpose of "Exhibition" can no longer be used to get permission to keep animals in zoos. That is why a new purpose, "Scientific study about breeding" is being used now. Zoos use this to bring in animals and they simply put them on display.
The management department needs to study the plans of the zoos indepth and make certain they are being truthful in their intent.

4.What is this present of elephants?

We heard that basically the plan to present elephants to Ueno Zoo from Surin(in Thailand) was made to express thanks to a Japanese NGO, that has been planting trees there. However, the NGO says that it is being reported by the press that this is a birthday present for the Royal Family in order to publicize the news.

We wonder why Ueno Zoo took part in this plan, since it is unrelated to the scientific study of elephants basically. The keeping of Asian elephants that are under threat of extinction should only be done based on a scientific plan.
Elephants can not be used under the cloak of charity,"friendship". Moreover, keeping elephants that will survive for more than 60 years cost a lot and should be a liability to zoos that operate in the red.

5.The problem of quarantine, and epidemics caused by animals.

On August of 15th,the government of Croatia refused to import the elephants from Sri Lanka. The reason is that Sri Lanka is a country where foot and mouth disease has broken out. Foot and mouth disease is very virulent and measures to stop the transport of both people and animals shoud be taken when it breaks out in concerned areas.

Now in Thailand, where the elephants are going to be imported from, foot and mouth disease often breaks out. The above mentioned problem may happen in Japan. Especially in a zoo where many unspecified numbers of people visit, this could be a huge public health concern.

We think that it is difficult for Japanese authorities to take measures against such a horizontal social problem because Japanese bureaucracies tend to function vertically. However, it is too late to be upset after something happens.
We would like to demand that you take measures against an outbreak caused by this "gift".

6.The problem of welfare of animals
In Japan nearly every zoo is operating in the red because of the decline of visitors. "Elephant Country in Ichihara",operated by a private person, has small lots. They get income by making elephants do stunts and by operating a moving zoo.
Ueno Zoo, which is a city type zoo, also has limited lots. Therefore it is inappropriate to keep big animals as such elephants in small lots for the welfare of the animals.

In both of these zoos and in almost every zoo in Japan, elephants can neither act in their natural way nor satisfy their instinctual needs. As a result many of them show abnormal and pathetic behavior because of stress.This behavior can be seen when elephants, wild animals, are kept in artificial and small compounds.
We can only improve the situation by arranging wider compounds, a more natural environment and letting them live in groups.

However, neither of these can be done in Japanese zoos. Therefore we should not keep any more elephants in captivity. We feel that it would be much better for Japan to switch its policies to support and cooperate with India and Thailand to conserve their forest and the habitat of elephants that are disappearing rapidly.


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