New Zealand has approves a new $1.6m elephant despite a Sri Lankan court hold up, stuff.co.nz reported.
In May 2011 Auckland Council approved $3.2m to transport two gifted elephants from Sri Lanka to New Zealand.
Anjalee joined veteran elephant Burma at Auckland Zoo in 2015
But protests from animal rights activists and cultural and religious groups in Sri Lanka stopped second elephant Nandi from leaving Sri Lanka for New Zealand.
During the 2017/2018 Annual Plan process council allocated only $1.1m for the relocation of the second elephant instead of the $1.6m required, due to an oversight.
At Auckland Council’s finance and performance committee meeting on Tuesday, 15 councillors approved a correction of $549,000 to the $1.6 million needed to move Nandi to New Zealand.
A hearing about whether Nandi can be moved to New Zealand is underway after campaigners in Sri Lanka petitioned the Sri Lankan Court of Appeal.
At the committee meeting, Auckland Zoo deputy director Kevin Burley said the court case in Sri Lanka was not about Nandi specifically, but rather the gifting of elephants as a whole.
Anjalee had thrived under the zoo’s care and he thought Nandi would thrive also, Burley said.
Councillors Cathy Casey, Efeso Collins, Mike Lee, Wayne Walker and John Watson voted against the decision.
“It’s a lot of money to transport an exotic, endangered animal from one part of the world to this part of the world,” Casey said.
“Two elephants are enough.”
$1.6m could go a long way for community groups and the council’s homelessness programme, she said.
Collins said he was voting against the correction because $549,000 could be used to double council’s commitment to homelessness.
“We would pay the Christmas parades in Ōtara, Papatoetoe, Otahuhu and Māngere for 15 years with half a million dollars,” Collins said.
“We could fly around civil servants of this council business class with half a million dollars.”
Regional facilities Auckland board external relations director Paul Brewer said it was delighted at the correction of $549,000.
“There was good robust debate,” Brewer said.
If the court in Sri Lanka ruled in its favour, getting Nandi to New Zealand would be quickly underway, he said.
A spokeswoman for Auckland Zoo said it was confident it could give Nandi an excellent home and life but her arrival was ultimately up to the Sri Lankan courts.
“If we subsequently hear definitively that she will have to stay at Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, then we will then explore what other options are for our elephant programme,” the spokeswoman said.
SAFE campaign director Mandy Carter said Nandi had established her own family at the orphanage and an “artificial group” at Auckland Zoo could cause issues, she said.
Alongside the one-off cost of $3.2m for Anjalee and Nandi, there would be high ongoing costs of $100,000 each to look after three elephants at the zoo, Carter said.
Instead she thought the money could go to looking after native animals, she said.
Residents commented on community website Neighbourly about Auckland Council spending $1.6m on an elephant.
Remuera resident Zoe Spinks said having another elephant at the zoo would attract more visitors.
“I see this as an investment to bring more interest and funding toward conservation, including our own native species,” Spinks said.
Grey Lynn resident Jo Ryan said she wondered what Auckland Council’s perspective was on spending money on an elephant rather than safe and affordable housing.
“$1.6m could change the lives of many of those who are homeless,” Ryan said. (Colombo Gazette)