Flood Czech: our jumbos safe in Prague


Concerns over the fate of Sri Lankan elephants in inundated Prague Zoo – where an elephant died in severe flooding in 2002 – have been laid to rest by zoo officials who say the animals are safe despite the zoo being flooded again, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of its denizens.

Safe: Tamara with baby Sita. Pic courtesy Tomáš Adamec

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Times, Prague Zoo’s spokesman, Michal Stastny, said the new elephant enclosure, Elephant Valley, has not been affected by this month’s floods in the Czech Republic’s capital because it is located on higher ground, about 70m above the water level.

Established in 1931, the Prague zoo has been one of the largest and popular zoos in the world. It is located on the banks of the Vltava River, making it prone to flooding. In 2002, the zoo experienced the worst flood in 100 years, resulting in the deaths of many animals.

Among the dead was Kadir, an Asian elephant, which had to be euthanased as it faced a worse death by drowning when rescue efforts failed to get it out from its enclosure. Some of the other larger animals that died during the 2002 floods include a gorilla, hippos and some small animals. A group of sea lions escaped to the Vltava River.

Animal activists have been worried about the fate of two Sri Lankan elephants, Janita and Tamara, recently gifted to the zoo but Mr Stastny’s reassurances have been cheering.

He said that earlier this month some 1000 animals had to be evacuated from the lower part of the zoo to temporary accommodation on higher ground to make sure of their safety. These included big cats such as tigers, jaguars, leopards and lions that had to be tranquillised. The only casualty this time was a flamingo, he said. A gorilla too had to be sedated in order to evacuate it to safety.

Eight-year-old Janita and seven-year-old Tamara were donated to the Prague Zoo in October last year and sent to the Czech Republic by a Sri Lankan Air Force cargo plane. The plane did not return empty to Colombo as the zoo gifted a pair of Komodo dragons, a pair of Przewalski horses and a pair of young hippos to the Dehiwela Zoo.

Submerged direction boards at the zoo

Prague Zoo is now home to eight Asian elephants. On March 30, the little herd, including Tamara and Janita, were moved to the Valley of Elephants, which has a heated pavilion of 1400 square metres and three connectable runs with a total area of 8500 square metres. The elephants are not chained.

Animal welfare groups in Sri Lanka are unenthusiastic about elephants such as Janita and Tamara from the Pinnawela elephant orphanage being donated to foreign zoos.

While some international zoos take good care of their elephants, many others do not have proper capabilities to raise elephants, specially in harsh weather, activists say. In many instances, they say, the elephants are left alone, placing these sociable animals under huge stress.

In Prague Zoo, Janita and Tamara also have company of six other companions. In February, the first baby elephant was born in the zoo, and both Janita and Tamara have apparently assumed foster-mother duties to five-month-old Sita, whose mother is also present. Prague Zoo says it is grateful that the two elephants sent by Sri Lanka could enhance its breeding programme.

Published on SundayTimes on 23.06.2013 http://www.sundaytimes.lk/130623/news/flood-czech-our-jumbos-safe-in-prague-49773.html

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