Lammie the elephant has been in captivity at the Johannesburg Zoo for the past 32 years. A male elephant named Kinkel who was Lammie's companion died recently due to "unconfirmed causes".
This is not the first tragedy that captive-born Lammie (or the other animals at the Johannesburg Zoo) have endured. Both her parents, Jumbo and Dolly, who were captured from the wild in the 1970's, died at the Zoo within a year of each other. Lammie's brother, who was also born at the zoo, died shortly after being sold to a French zoo.
While Lammie languishes alone since the death of Kinkel, elephant experts are calling for her release from Johannesburg Zoo to a sanctuary, saying the captive elephant's overall well-being is being compromised. Worse, the Johannesburg Zoo has confirmed that they plan to acquire another cow to keep Lammie company, but animal welfare and elephant experts have objected, saying that the lone elephant should be released into a wild reserve where she can roam free and bond with a herd.
As sentient beings reliant on family bonds, elephants in captivity display behavioral abnormalities, suffer from diseases, disabilities and have notably shorter life spans. Due to high infant mortality rates, no or minimal conservation value has been ascribed to captive elephant breeding programs.
In addition, South Africa's Elephant Norms and Standards prohibit the capture of elephants in the wild for permanent captivity. According to Dr. Gay Bradshaw, a trans-species psychologist who researches the effects of violence on elephants and other animals, the death of an individual has a large impact on the family and within the community. Furthermore, repeated losses in the absence of the traditional healing structures of the elephant family and culture cause sustained psychological trauma.
For 32 years, Lammie has been confined in a restrictive and very limited space. For 32 long years, the Johannesburg Zoo has profited from Lammie and her family and it is about time for the Zoo to set him free to enjoy the freedom that all other elephants or wild animals enjoy!