The Jakarta Post
Activists from Animals Indonesia, an NGO based in Malang, East Java, staged a protest near an elephant statue in the center of Yogyakarta on Wednesday in response to the relocation of two elephants from their habitat in Bengkulu to Gembira Loka Zoo in the city.
Wearing elephant masks, five protesters brought with them a big banner reading: 'Send Back Home Sumatran Elephants.'
'We regret that the elephants were relocated. It's like relocating them from heaven to hell,' spokesperson for Animals Indonesia Elizabeth Laksmi said during the protest.
She explained that the two elephants, named as Shinta, 23, and Natasya, 24, were taken out of their habitat in the Center for Elephant Conservation in Seblat, Bengkulu, where they were living freely, and moved to a small cage in the zoo.
She added that although the two elephants were placed in the conservation center they were also allowed to visit a 7,000 hectare protected forest seven times a month.
'There [at the conservation center], the two elephants usually got the best from nature because their food was directly taken from the forest and they drank and bathed in rivers in the forest,' she said.
She said this condition was different from the zoo where the elephants are placed in a small cage and drink rainwater. She added that they feared the two elephants who arrived at the zoo early this year would also be stressed out because they were separated from their community in the conservation area.
'We oppose the relocation of these elephants and we demand that the government to send them back to their habitat,' she said.
Director of Gembira Loka Zoo Djoko Tirtono claimed the two elephants' relocation was valid because it was approved by relevant government officials.
He said the relocation has won approval from the Ministry of Forestry, including the director general for forest protection and natural conservation and it underwent a long process that started in Dec. 14, 2013.
He also said that the Center for Natural Resources Conservation (BKSDA) in Yogyakarta has given its approval for the two elephants' relocation to the zoo.
'It is the NGO's right to express their opposition but if they want the two elephants to be returned, they should come not to us but the Forestry Ministry,' he said
Djoko also said the two elephants were not taken from their habitat in the wild forest but from the conservation center where they were taken care of and trained for certain skills and if the elephants were set free to their natural habitat they would not survive.
He promised that his personnel would pay more attention to the care of the two elephants
He said the two elephants were going support better breeding among the elephants in the zoo.
The zoo now has six elephants, including six females. Djoko said the ideal sex ratio was one male for every five females.(rms)(++++)
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