Blackpool Zoo has refused to comment on the future of its planned elephant breeding programme in light of news that the endangered animals are likely to be banned from UK zoos by the Government.
Blackpool Zoo in 1979
It comes as the Government is set to receive the results of a report about the welfare of captive elephants, which is understood to advise against keeping the animals in zoos in the future.
Elephants already living in zoos around the country will be allowed to live out the rest of their years in captivity – but bringing in new elephants will be banned under the recommendations.
Yesterday, Blackpool Zoo declined to comment about what the plans could mean for the future of it Project Elephant breeding programme.
Blackpool Zoo’s elephants
The zoo welcomed its first male elephant, Emmett, to its all-female herd in October 2019, and it was hoped he would become the father to a new generation of Asian elephants.
Environment minister Zac Goldsmith told the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs had no plans to introduce a total ban on elephants in UK zoos, but did not say whether new elephants
He said: “Defra has no plans to ban the keeping of elephants in UK zoos. However… the Government commissioned an extensive piece of work to examine the conditions in which the elephants are kept, and to make reccommendations as to if and how those conditions can be improved.
“Elephants are iconic, thoughtful and highly intelligent animals, and deserve to be looked after in environments that reflect that. We have been clear that all zoo elephants must enjoy the highest possible welfare standards, and that is why we commissioned the 10-year-long report from the UK Elephant Welfare Group.
“The group has been given free reign to explore the issue and deliver whatever final recommendations they see fit, and their report will be completed this year and then considered by the UK’s Zoos Expert Committee.
“The Government will respond early next year. At this stage, I do not know what the recommendations are likely to be, but I have assured the committee that the Government will take these recommendations very seriously. In addition, and in the event that the recommendations include significant measures, the Government would consult widely with stakeholders before agreeing to them.”
Mark Jones, from international animal welfare charity Born Free, said: “There are many species that don’t belong in zoos, elephants are very much one of those species.
“It should be phased out, the needs of these very wide roaming, very complex social animals cannot be met in a captive environment.”
Blackpool Zoo is currently home to six Asian elephants: Kate, Tara, Minbu, Noorjahan, Esha and Emmett.
The £5m Project Elephant base camp, which opened in March 2018, was the biggest investment in the history of the zoo. Its indoor area is the largest elephant enclosure in the UK, with s while the outdoor area comprises of sanded areas, a bathing pool and a landscaped grass paddock.
In total, there are 51 elephants in 11 zoos in the UK, including Woburn, Whipsnade, Colchester and Chester. It has been illegal for circuses to keep elephants since January 2020.