Perth Zoo, end your elephant 'art'
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Elephants are a highly intelligent, social, and emotionally complex species.
Whilst we appreciate that the keepers at Perth Zoo care deeply for their charges, we cannot accept that asking the elephants to exhibition unnatural behaviour, such as painting, is enriching for them.
We also have concerns regarding the training methods employed with the elephants. Especially in regard to the use of bullhooks. N.B. We acknowledge, and accept that Perth Zoo use 'elephant guides' rather than bullhooks. Whilst we would rather see the elephants in an open-range setting, where guidance isn't needed, we formally remove this concern. However, we have felt it imperative to leave the following information in regards to how elephants abroad, carrying out the same activity, may be treated.
Bullhooks are one of the many weapons used against young elephants, when they go through a training process known as 'phajaan'. Which in Thai, means "to divorce the baby elephant from its spirit" or to ''split the will" of a baby elephant. Phajaan or ‘Crushing’ is the traditional Asian torture of young elephants to break their spirit. It is done so that they are submissive to humans.
Bullhooks continue to be used on the vast majority of captive elephants for the remainder of their life, a constant reminder of the torment they suffered. They end in a hook, much like a bull's horn, hence the name. The tip of this hook, is applied to sensitive areas of the elephant's head and body to guide and control them. This can often be seen being done to elephants in countries such as Thailand, when they are asked to paint pictures for tourists.
In light of this, we would like to raise a final concern. By offering 'Ele-Art', produced by the Asian elephants at Perth Zoo, you are making this behaviour appear normal to the public, encouraging them to pay for similar works of 'art' abroad, where the standard of welfare may not be as high.
We ask that you reassess the environmental, and behavioural, enrichment opportunities given to your Asian elephants. In doing so, we ask, that for the welfare of elephants worldwide, you no longer offer 'Ele-Art', be it as a gift, or part of an event package.
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