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  • 01. How was Anjalee transported from Niue to Auckland?

    Thanks to the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) Anjalee was flown on a C-130 Hercules for the final leg of her journey to her new home at Auckland Zoo, which took approximately 5 hours.

  • 02. How are Anjalee and Burma getting on?

    Things are going incredibly well since Anjalee and Burma touched trunks just a few days after Anjalee's arrival and the pair have been near-inseparable ever since.

  • 03. Why did Anjalee come to Auckland Zoo from Sri Lanka's Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage?

    After the death of Kashin, our elephant matriarch in 2009, Sri Lanka's Honorary Consul in New Zealand suggested Auckland Zoo approach Pinnawala for potential new companions for Burma. To our great delight, this resulted in Anjalee's arrival to Auckland Zoo in June 2015, and marked the beinning of another close partnership in Sri Lanka.

    Auckland Zoo is proud to be able to provide a home for two animals from Pinnawala, and to continue to support a variety of wild elephant conservation efforts in Sri Lanka.

    Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage regularly has to provide homes and additional space for confiscated elephants that have been illegally captured from the wild, as well as elephants that are victims of the growing human-elephant conflict in Sri Lanka. A problem that Auckland Zoo is working hard to change. On average, two elephants are killed every four days, and six people die every month as a result of this conflict.

    Sri Lanka's growing human population now numbers over 20 million people. Its Asian elephant population, currently estimated at between just 5,000 and 6,000 animals, has declined more than 50% over the past three generations.

  • 04. Anjalee is from Sri Lanka and Burma is from Myanmar. Do they understand each other when they communicate?

    Elephants are extraordinary communicators - specialists in low frequency sound (octaves lower than humans can detect!) and communicating from long distances. Keepers (and zoo visitors) have heard quite a range of vocalisations from both Anjalee and Burma; directly 'talking' to each other as well as expressing themselves - be that excitement, apprehension, a little scared or playful. Vocalisations include a lot of roaring, as well as squeaks, rumbles, clucks, and chirps.

  • 05. Anjalee is from a warm climate - how is she coping with Auckland's winter?

    Auckland has a warm and humid climate in summer and mild winters, so while temperatures aren't as high as Sri Lanka, Anjalee has adjusted really well. In winter a good heating and monitoring system in the barn ensures a comfortable and appropriate temperature.

  • 06. Is Anjalee fully transitioned to Auckland Zoo's free-contact elephant programme yet?

    The elephant team made great progress with Anjalee while in Niue and now in Auckland - where, along with building relationships with Andrew and other team members, she has also grown in confidence and size!

    "Anjalee is doing incredibly well, we really couldn't ask for better. She's a very happy, relaxed and playful elephant, and super smart. She's put on condition, which is what we want, and has picked up the behaviours we've been focused on teaching her extremely well - things like lifting her trunk and opening her mouth so we can inspect her mouth - like we do with Burma. We've also been walking Anjalee with us at her side - something she'll do out in the grounds at Auckland Zoo once she has time to settle in and fully integrate with Burma" says elephant team leader Andrew Coers.

  • 07. Why is transitioning Anjalee to the Zoo's programme such a lengthy process?

    Anjalee was managed at Sri Lanka's Pinnawala elephant orphanage by mahouts under their traditional and very different techniques. This included being chained (tethered) for considerable periods, and wearing chains around her neck when out walking with mahouts - something that Anjalee became reliant on for a sense of security.

    The Zoo's programme is based on keepers building strong emotional bonds and a partnership/relationship that creates co-operation, trust and confidence, and uses affection and play, and many different verbal and visual cues. All of this takes time.

  • 08. When will Anjalee be able to go walking through the Zoo like Burma?

    Although there is still work to be done, Anjalee has been going on some great walks with the team and Burma through the Zoo grounds and climbing up to the top of the Zoo to browse and explore. You can see an update here on Zoo tales:

  • 09. What practical tools does Auckland Zoo's elephant programme use?

    Our elephant team use a light ankus - used as an extension of the arm to reach cue points and as a guiding tool during training sessions - e.g. cueing the feet to be raised to inspect the nails and soles for small stones after a walk around the Zoo.

    Our programme only ever uses foot restraints during elephant wash-downs and some medical procedures. The use of restraints on elephants during a positive and enjoyable activity like a wash-down creates a positive association that allows their ready use when actually required for some veterinary procedures. When restraints are required for some veterinary procedures, it is to assist with correct positioning and to ensure staff safety from involuntary responses by the elephant.

  • 10. When is Auckland likely to see baby elephants?

    It's not really possible to put a date on this, but we are aiming to give Anjalee an opportunity to breed within the next four years, through the use of artificial insemination.

  • 11. Is Auckland Zoo planning to acquire more elephants? If so, how many and how will you be able to accommodate them?

    We are delighted to confirm a second elephant, 5 year old female Nandi, from Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka will be joining elephants Burma and Anjalee. Our current elephant facilities more than meet international best practice standards to do this.

    Anjalee’s arrival last year, and Nandi’s upcoming move, completes the elephants coming to us from Pinnawala. Auckland Zoo staff have been working with their counterparts at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage and have identified Nandi as having the right temperament and disposition to be a great companion for Anjalee and Burma.

  • 12. Can Auckland Zoo fully provide for all the physical, psychological and emotional needs of these elephants?

    With our recognised world-class elephant programme and extraordinary team of elephant keepers and vets, Auckland Zoo has all the credentials to manage elephants. Our team of keepers work freely and in close contact and are able to build incredible bonds that create cooperation, trust and confidence. Our programmed is focused on affection, verbal and visual cues, play, choice and diverse activities to ensure a full and stimulating life.

    We regularly seek and receive external expert evaluation of our programme and how it provides for the wellbeing of elephants. The expert we have used in recent years has also acted as an expert witness for animal welfare organisations such as the Humane Society International, the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals and the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Consistently these expert evaluations have praised our programme and our standard of care.

  • 13. How much is this elephant acquisition going to cost Auckland ratepayers?

    The acquisition of two elephant companions for Burma was approved back in 2011 by Auckland Council's Strategy & Finance Committee. The $3.2m project allocation is a forward allocation of Auckland Zoo's funding and comes at no additional cost to ratepayers.

  • 14. Isn't it more expensive to bring one elephant out at a time, rather than both together? Are ratepayers going to have to contribute more money?

    Yes, but not to a significant degree. There are a number of one-off set-up costs which won't need to be replicated for a second elephant. We have also achieved sufficient savings in other areas against the original budget to cover any additional transport costs. No additional ratepayer funding will be needed.

  • 15. Why does it cost so much to acquire 2 elephants?

    The vast majority of costs relate to transporting the elephants and the quarantine facilities required in both Sri Lanka and in Niue. Other costs associated with this include having Zoo staff and required officials at both quarantine facilities.

  • 16. How does having elephants in zoos help the conservation of elephants in the wild?

    Asian elephants are endangered; their wild habitat is disappearing and wild elephant populations are increasingly coming into conflict with people with disastrous results.

    By attracting 700,000 visitors a year to the Zoo, we can inspire our community to better understand wildlife and what we can all do to help. And we can help motivate change, such as reducing the amount of palm oil we all buy to help stop elephant habitat being cleared.

    Auckland Zoo is a not-for-profit conservation organisation focused on building a future for wildlife, and we direct significant efforts and resources towards this. This past year, Auckland Zoo contributed $1.4 million directly to conserving wildlife in the wild.

    In this way, and for many years now, we've been helping fund programmes in Sri Lanka and Nepal, aimed at researching Asian elephant populations, understanding them better, and helping to avert conflict. We also help elephants in Sumatra through supporting the protection of habitat. And every visitor to the Zoo helps us generate the funds needed for these projects.

  • 17. Wouldn't it be better to spend the money that's costing you to get 2 elephants on directly helping elephants in the wild?

    Every year, Auckland Zoo contributes over $1 million directly to conserving wildlife in the wild, including elephants. In this way, and for many years now, we've been helping fund programmes in Sri Lanka and Nepal, aimed at researching Asian elephant populations, understanding them better, and helping to avert conflict. We also help elephants in Sumatra through supporting the protection of habitat.

    Having elephants at the Zoo helps us continue to make such a contribution each year, every year.

    Elephants are extraordinarily powerful ambassadors for wildlife and the natural world. In the long term, wildlife will only be saved from extinction when people care enough to make a change, and to act to help wildlife.

  • 18. Is it true that Auckland Zoo only wants to get more elephants so that it can make more money?

    Auckland Zoo is a not-for-profit conservation organisation and one of the world's leading zoos - focused on building a future for wildlife. All the money we raise goes back into caring for our animals, and to supporting the conservation work we do.

    It's likely that more public will be keen to visit Auckland Zoo to see Burma's new elephant companion Anjalee - and that will be absolutely fantastic! More visitors will result in more people being able to connect, fall in love with and be inspired to care about and act for these magnificent animals. And more people coming to see Burma and her companion(s) will be directly furthering the support we can give to vital conservation efforts in the wild.

  • 19. About Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

    Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage was established in 1975 by Sri Lanka's Department of Wildlife on a 25 acre property northwest of Kegalle town - half-way between the country's captial Colombo and the ancient royal residence of Kandy in the hills of central Sri Lanka.

    In 1978, it was taken over by Sri Lanka's Department of National Zoological Gardens, and in 1982 it launched its captive breeding programme.

    Pinnawala orphanage was primarily designed to provide care and protection for the many baby elephants found in the jungle without their mothers. In most cases, the mothers had died or been killed. Over the years, in addition to establishing a captive breeding programme, Pinnawala has also focused on education, research and eco-tourism. It is a popular destination for tourist visitors to Sri Lanka.

    All elephants at the Pinnawala elephant orphanage are unable to be released in to the wild - the orphanage regularly has to provide homes and additional space for confiscated elephants who were illegally captured from the wild, as well as elephants that are victims of the growing human-elephant conflict in the country - exacerbated by the increasing loss of elephant habitat. On average, two elephants are killed every four days, and six people die every month as a result of this conflict.

    Sri Lanka's growing human population now numbers over 20 million people. Its Asian elephant population, currently estimated at between just 5,000 and 6,000 animals, has declined more than 50% over the past three generations.

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