Animal rights group PETA has delivered a letter, with more than 8,000 signatures, to Blackpool Council, opposing the resort zoo’s planning application to expand its elephant enclosure.
The letter points out that elephants’ complex needs ‘cannot be met in captivity’ and asks that instead of expanding its elephant programme, Blackpool Zoo end the programme entirely and retire its sole remaining elephant to a sanctuary.
Elephants are sensitive and highly-intelligent animals who, in nature, roam huge distances every day with their closely knit families
PETA director Mimi Bekhechi, said: “Elephants are sensitive and highly-intelligent animals who, in nature, roam huge distances every day with their closely knit families.
“PETA is calling on Blackpool Council to prevent the zoo from sentencing more of these majestic animals to a life of deprivation behind bars.”
The animal rights group says in zoos, social elephants are often forced to live alone or in artificially created groupings. The stress of captivity can lead to display of stereotypic behaviour, known as “zoochosis”, such as rocking or head-swaying.
Two elephants have died at Blackpool Zoo since 2014, and only one elderly female Asian elephant, Kate, remains.
Blackpool Council is expected to pass the plans for the proposed new 1,900 square metre enclosure, to also be used for insect and reptile exhibits, at a meeting to be held tonight.
Some 73 letters of objection have been sent regarding the plans, but town hall planners say animal welfare is out of their jurisdiction and is not a planning issue. Officers have earmarked the scheme for approval on planning grounds, stating the debate on whether elephants should be kept in zoos or not be discussed elsewhere.