Target: Tim Van Norman, head of permitting at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Goal: Do not allow U.S. zoos to import wild elephants from Africa.
Permits were recently approved allowing three U.S. zoos to import eighteen wild elephants from their native home in Swaziland. The Dallas Zoo, the Sedwick County Zoo in Kansas, and the Henry Doorly Zoo in Nebraska will be putting the elephants on display and using the three males and fifteen females for breeding purposes. Not many elephants remain in Swaziland, so this move will take away a significant number of the population to live out the rest of their lives in captivity. Furthermore, elephants have been proven by the scientific community to be highly intelligent and social animals that do not respond positively to being separated from their families. The quality of life they will experience as exhibits in a zoo will be detrimental to both their health and emotional wellbeing.
The Fish and Wildlife Service granted the permits despite numerous protests from animal welfare groups, and is now facing a lawsuit from Friends of Animals, a Connecticut-based animal advocacy group. The non-profit organization claims that the Fish and Wildlife Service’s failure to do a National Environmental Policy Act analysis should nullify the permits, as this analysis would have examined the physical and emotional well-being of the elephants and would have shed light on the dangers of forcibly removing them from their home. By failing to complete this analysis, the Fish and Wildlife Service violated its duty to weigh the possible dangers of the importation and fully disclose this information.
In an interview with National Geographic, Tim Van Norman, the head of the permits branch at the Fish and Wildlife Service, spoke about the decision to approve the permits and claimed that the zoos were not looking to make a profit from importing the elephants. Friends of Animals disputes this claim by pointing out that the zoos have invested more than $25 million in elephant exhibits, and Swaziland has made a profit in the past by selling elephants to U.S. zoos. Furthermore, Norman claims that his organization has “not been mandated by Congress to consider the ethics of this.” It is always the responsibility of any decision-maker to consider the ethics involved in his choice, and importing these elephants would be both cruel and unethical.
Sign the petition below to support the Friends of Animals’ lawsuit, and urge the Fish and Wildlife Service to reconsider their decision and keep the elephants safe by revoking these harmful permits.
Dear Mr. Van Norman,
The permits to import eighteen elephants from their native home in Swaziland to U.S. zoos must be revoked. Scientific findings have proved that elephants are highly intelligent, social and emotional animals, and removing them from their families and familiar habitat will be detrimental to both their physical and emotional wellbeing. They will not experience a good quality of life in captivity as zoo exhibits, and the importation should not be allowed to occur. Had a National Environmental Policy act analysis been conducted, the dangers of importing these elephants at the risk of their physical and mental health would have been discovered. This information should have been fully disclosed, as it is likely that their lifespans will be greatly shortened in captivity.
I am urging you to heed the protests of the Friends of Animals organization and the many other animal advocacy groups that have objected to these permits. Please revoke the permits, and do not separate these elephants from their families and homeland to live out the rest of their lives in captivity.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Megan Coughlin