Zoos refuse to provide answers

Tuesday, 1 March, 2005
Yarmouth Port, MA
IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare), RSPCA Australia and the Humane Society International (HSI) are asking what Auckland Zoo, Melbourne Zoo and Taronga Zoo are hiding regarding their plans to import nine Asian elephants from Thailand.
Despite repeated requests and an application made under the Freedom of Information Act, the zoos have refused to reveal to the NGOs the answers they gave to the Australian Department of Environment and Heritage (DEH) in response to questions about their permit application.

"We simply cannot understand why the zoos will not provide us with the information we have asked for-if it answers all the questions asked by the Government then why not share it with the community?" said Rebecca Brand of IFAW Asia Pacific.

"Surely it is in the best interests of all involved to have open and honest communication. If the zoos believe there is nothing wrong with their submission, then why not hold it up for public scrutiny, particularly in light of the significant public funds that have been spent on this project?"

The Australian Environment Minister, Senator Ian Campbell, is currently poised to make his decision on whether to allow the importation of the elephants.

The NGOs are stating that the import should be refused on the grounds that it does not meet the animal welfare and conservation benefit requirements of the Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

"We remain willing and eager to further debate the issue but it is impossible to have informed discussions when vital information is being withheld," said Nicola Beynon of HSI.

"We hope the zoos will reconsider their decision and provide us with their revised submission and the answers to the questions posed by DEH without further delay, giving us the opportunity to provide comment on this revised proposal before a final decision is made."

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