19 Apr 2022

Australia Zoo suddenly scraps plans to take Auckland's elephant Burma

From Checkpoint, 5:25 pm on 19 April 2022

Australia Zoo has made a last-minute decision to pull the pin on plans to take Burma the elephant from Auckland Zoo.

The 38-year-old was meant to head across the ditch next week to live out her twilight years amongst a herd at Australia Zoo but the zoo now says it cannot take her. 

"After discussions with The Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, we have made the incredibly tough decision to cancel the transfer of Burma to Australia Zoo," the zoo said in a statement.

"While our oldest elephant, Megawati, is currently undergoing treatment for a bacterial infection our priority is the health and wellbeing of our herd. We have been working with Auckland Zoo on this project for over 12 months, and are saddened it hasn't resulted as planned. We wish them all the best in finding a new home for Burma."

Auckland Zoo director Kevin Buley said the zoo was "extremely disappointed". 

"We were already aware of Megawati's health issues but all previous indications from Australia Zoo were that this would not be a barrier to importing Burma to Australia nor would it pose a risk to Burma once she arrived."

Auckland Zoo had put out calls for people to say their last goodbyes to Burma, who was due to fly on a jumbo-jet next week in a custom crate.

The elephant has been at Auckland Zoo for 32 years. 

After the zoo's other elephant Anjalee arrived at Taronga Western Plains zoo a few weeks ago to be part of their breeding programme, Burma was set to join a herd for her retirement years at the end of the month. 

"It will take significant time to explore alternatives to rehome Burma," Auckland Zoo said.

Currently the zoo has no immediate concerns for her, and the zoo's team will continue to provide expert care while it reviews the options for Burma.