Woburn Electric Shocks Elephant

27/6/10

Woburn admits it gave bull elephant electric shocks

This is not a Woburn elephant but is another one in similar dire situation which we must get them out of

The male elephant said to be best trained and most manageable in Europe was given 4,500-volt shocks to make it obey

A male elephant at Woburn Safari Park which has been described by bosses there as “one of the best trained and most manageable bulls in Europe" was forced to obey its keeper’s commands with the use of high voltage electric shocks, it has emerged.

Raja, a 16-year-old Asian bull elephant, was trained in the past by being given jolts from an electric goad when he disobeyed. The 4ft-long goads, also known as “hotshots”, deliver a charge of at least 4,500 volts and their use has been condemned as inhumane by animal welfare campaigners.

Last week The Sunday Times revealed that Woburn, which is known for displaying animals such as lions and tigers in spacious enclosures, has actually been locking its big cats up in small cages for up to 18 hours a day when visitors are not present.

Until last year the park was also keeping its sealions in chlorinated water, which one of its own staff said was giving the animals ulcers and leaving them half-blind. The latest disclosure is embarrassing for Woburn Safari Park as it is emphasising how well-trained Raja is in order to appeal a prohibition notice by Central Bedfordshire council over the safety of its bull elephant enclosure.

After an informant told the council that Raja had succeeded in escaping briefly from his pen last November, officials ordered immediate measures to be taken for fear of him doing so again. By agreeing to have a member of staff present whenever Raja is in his paddock Woburn has been able to comply with the notice, which was issued in April, pending a more permanent solution. The park, however, insist that the issuing of the notice itself was an overraction because Raja has a particularly docile nature, even though bull elephants are generally considered to be unpredictable and dangerous animals.

Woburn has now submitted a “character reference” for Raja to the council insisting that he is “an extremely laid back bull” and therefore not a grave danger to the public. Jonathan Cracknell, a vet who specialises in elephants, wrote: “Raja is a manageable bull and this is a reflection of his individual nature but also that of the combined experience and knowledgeable [sic] of the elephant team at Woburn.

“The relationship built up with Raja over the last 13 years whilst he has been at Woburn allow the staff to have a solid understanding of Raja and how he should be managed on a daily basis.”

In its written appeal over the notice Woburn also stated: “Raja is one of only two elephants in Europe which are thought to be sufficiently manageable to be used for an artificial insemination programme and he is also an elephant who responds obediently to the commands of his keepers.”

Mike Potter, Woburn’s chief executive, added: “Raja is known to be one of the best trained and most calm and manageable bull elephants in Europe.”

How he became to be so manageable is now open to question, however. It is understood that the electric goad was used on Raja within a few years of him arriving at Woburn in 1997. Its use has since been discontinued.

Craig Redmond, of the Captive Animals’ Protection Society, said: “To hear that electric goads may have been used on an elephant at Woburn Safari Park will disturb many people who have previously been unaware of how animals are treated in zoos.

“Electric goads have been criticised by many experts. Elephants may be the largest land mammal on the planet but they are generally a caring and sensitive animal. However, abuse them with electric shocks or bull hooks and you shouldn’t be surprised if they seek their revenge at a later stage.”

The council said that Woburn had confirmed the use of the goad on Raja in the past to its officials during their inspections this year. Budge Wells, a Central Bedfordshire councillor and the authority’s assistant portfolio holder for safer communities and healthier lifestyles, said: “As soon as we became aware of concerns regarding Raja the elephant’s training in the past we spoke with staff at Woburn Safari Park regarding negative forms of encouragement.

“They confirmed that this practice had stopped and had not been used for a number of years. We have had no other allegations made that would suggest otherwise and we consider this matter to be closed.”

Woburn, which is now building new and better homes for its lions and tigers to accommodate them overnight, admitted that the goad had been used on Raja in the past.

Potter said: “The device was used at Woburn Safari Park many years ago without the involvement, prior knowledge or approval of anyone now employed at the Park.

“Woburn disagree with this practice. Raja’s temperament is due to the skill and levels of care given by our highly experienced elephant team using positive reinforcement training and mutual trust.”

Daniel Foggo

http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/uk_news/National/article330554.ece

 

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© Keith Mann
puppypincher@yahoo.co.uk