Lammie elephant humane society international

Photo: Envato Elements/ Simoneemanphotography

Animal protection organisations furious as zoo ignores pleas to free Lammie

Johannesburg Zoo purchased two new elephants, instead of heeding the advice of the world’s most respected experts to free Lammie.

Lammie elephant humane society international

Photo: Envato Elements/ Simoneemanphotography

Lammie the elephant made headlines back in January when it was reported that she had been in captivity at the Johannesburg Zoo for more than three decades.

Lammie’s history

Lammie’s mother, Dolly, arrived at the Johannesburg Zoo in 1966 after being captured from the wild in Botswana at the age of three. Jumbo, Lammie’s father, arrived the same year, also from Botswana, aged six.

Dolly was euthanised in 2000 at the age of 37; Jumbo died due to infection and enteritis in 1999 at the age of 39. Lammie was born into captivity in 1979.

Her brothers Umfaan and Johnti were also born into captivity. Umfaan was sold in 1990 at the age of six; Johnti was sold to the Peaugres Zoo in that same year. Lammie’s mate Kinkel passed away at the zoo in 2018.

Since then, Lammie has been alone. She spends most of her day standing in the shade against the wall of her enclosure.

Animal experts said it was a sign of boredom and depression.

Plight for freedom

Animal activists and protesters have called for the Lammie to be released.

In addition, the Humane Society International-Africa (HSI) joined forces with the EMS Foundation and the Elephant Reintegration Trust.

These organisations would pay for Lammie’s transition to a rewildling sanctuary. In addition, Ban Animal Trading also joined the discussion and tried to meet with zoo officials to facilitate Lammie’s freedom.

Johannesburg Zoo refused to heed the advice

Instead of heeding the advice and freeing Lammie, the Johannesburg Zoo has now purchased two new elephants.

The HSI confirmed that a 21-year-old elephant male named Ramadiba and a 19-year-old female elephant named Mopane was purchased from a captive facility in the Eastern Cape. The HSI said in a statement:

“This addition of the elephants has gone ahead in defiance of a global plea to #FreeLammie. [Animal rights groups] called for Lammie to be allowed to live out her remaining years in the freedom of an extensive protected sanctuary with another herd of previously captive elephants, after her mate of 37 years died last year.”

Experts warned earlier this year that bringing another elephant into captivity will simply perpetuate the cycle of exploitation. Furthermore, there will be no guarantee that the elephants will get along.

Inadequate living conditions

The zoo also said in January that they would expand Lammie’s enclosure. To date, no renovations have been implemented. The zoo introduced the two new elephants to Lammie’s small and cramped enclosure.

In addition, both Ramadiba and Mopane were purchased from a free contact system and could move around freely. The elephants will now face new challenges such as the moat. They will essentially be imprisoned.

 Lammie’s condition is worsening

The animal protection groups had stressed concern for Lammie’s mental well-being. Lammie showed signs of significant grief and trauma.

Experts suggest that Lammie spend her remaining years free from confinement; in an environment where she can thrive emotionally and physically with a group of elephants who would become her new family. 

Related – NSPCA quits Joburg Zoo ethics committee in protest over Lammie the elephant

What do the experts say?

HSI Wildlife Director Audrey Delsink, said they are furious. The right and honourable thing would be to give Lammie her freedom in a sanctuary with a new elephant herd. Delsink explained:

“Johannesburg Zoo has forged ahead and brought two new elephants for Lammie to share what remains of her life in captivity. Such was their haste to acquire these elephants, they have done so without completing any of the expansion or renovation work they promised. They ignored both public opinion and the pleas of some of the world’s most eminent elephant experts and conservationists.”

Delsink added that the Gauteng Legislature has also “utterly failed to respect the wishes of the 301,652 petitioners who called for Lammie to be released”:

“This decision denies Lammie, and the two new elephants, the chance of a decent, fulfilling life.”

EMS Foundation Director, Michele Pickover said they are “gobsmacked that the City of Johannesburg continuous to be so callous and uncaring on this matter.”

Pickover added that this is a “major PR disaster for the Democratic Alliance,” who is “swimming against global and local public opinion.” Pickover explained:

“[The DA] are also squandering ratepayers’ money on buying two elephants from Inkwenkwezi and keeping elephants at the zoo. South Africa needs desperately to build a more caring and respectful society; but instead, it seems the politicians are hell-bent on doing the opposite.” 

Brett Mitchell, Director of Elephant Reintegration Trust, had the following to say:

“This is a sad day for elephants. Yet another two elephants are unnecessarily been subjected to a life of imprisonment due to the lack of ethical management choices made by Joburg Zoo.”