This is a significant victory after the Asia for Animals coalition and our supporters submitted a letter- signed by over 100 animal protection organisations from around the world- expressing concerns about the "free contact" system that was in place, resulting in the continued use of the ankus by elephant keepers. Used to 'guide' elephants, the use of the ankus has a history of pain, discomfort, and human dominance.
By adopting the "protected contact management" system, only positive reinforcement is used, and keepers and members of the public are always protected by a barrier whether it be spatial or with fencing.
By adopting this system- as advocated by the American Zoo Association- Singapore Zoo will pave the way for other zoos in the region to change their elephant management practices, benefiting the welfare of the individual animals, and the safety of the keepers and public.
This newly adopted system will take three to five years to fully implement as the elephant enclosures will have to be redesigned. However, from the 5th of January onwards, activities in which the elephants are taken out of their exhibits will be stopped.
We applaud Singapore Zoo for their actions, but will continue to express our concerns regarding the continuation of their twice-daily "Elephants At Work And Play", as it is our position that wild animal performances encourage animals to perform unnatural tricks, portraying them to the public in a humiliating manner, instead of showing their natural grace and beauty and thereby promoting empathy and respect.