The city of Dallas is home to one of three American zoos that wants to transfer elephants from Africa to the U.S. in an effort to provide them with a better chance of surviving.
According to Quartz, the Dallas Zoo is attempting to import six elephants from Swaziland to live in its man-made savannah outside of the city’s downtown region.
While “Texas” and “elephants” aren’t typically synonymous, the Texas zoo argues that their synthetic habitat is much more beneficial to the animals than the dangerous conditions they’re facing in Africa.
The Dallas Zoo, along with zoos in Omaha, NE, and Wichita, KS, have filed paperwork with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to transport a combined 18 elephants from Swaziland to America. There are currently only 40 elephants in Swaziland, all of which are kept in two managed areas owned by private non-profit organization Big Game Parks.
The zoos argue that the elephants have outgrown their current habitat, and many are feeding through African forests and crowding endangered rhinos. They add that the controversial and pervasive poaching crisis throughout Africa makes it unsafe to relocate the animals within the country.
Dallas isn’t widely-known for wildlife preservation, but it’s common for endangered African animals to be relocated to America. For example, there are various wildlife preserves located nearby Bluffton, SC, with rare species, and South Carolina is home to eight of the 14 tree frogs found in the U.S.
Unfortunately, elephants need much more space to survive than tree frogs, and several conservation activists are decrying the zoos’ idea. One particular group publicly suggested that “African elephants belong in Africa” when asked about the proposed transfer.
Proponents of the transfer argue that Dallas is actually a much safer space for the elephants than Africa, where the intelligent animals are targeted by poachers for their ivory. According to National Geographic, illegal ivory trade in Africa results in the death of approximately 30,000 elephants every single year.
Both sides are also debating the elephants’ ability to roam free in the zoos, and those supporting the transfer claim that the animals are already confined to fenced-in areas with limited water supplies.
“There’s nowhere that’s really that wild anymore,” said Wayne Getz, a wildlife ecology professor at University of California, Berkeley. “Everywhere fences are put up.”
The three zoos have agreed to pay Big Game Parks $450,000 for the 18 elephants, which they say will go towards developing a conservation plan for those left behind in Swaziland.
Both Big Game Parks and the Dallas Zoo did not comment on the matter or respond to interview requests.
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