Published: 00:00, 06 October 2015
| Updated: 11:32, 06 October 2015
The animal director at Howletts Wild Animal Park has hit back at claims that sending its oldest resident - bull elephant Jums - to a new park in Spain was ill-advised because it would be too stressful.
Neil Spooner has spoken out following last week's transfer as the park welcomed a new bull, Coco to replace him in an exchange conducted with the Cabarceno National Park.
Moving gentle giant Jums, who is 38 and has been at Howletts for 26 years, was questioned by the Born Free Foundation who claimed it was unnecessary and could cause him lasting damage.
But Mr Spooner insists the swap was vitally important for the breeding programme and was beneficial for herds.
He said Howletts is part of an international breeding programme, run by The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) working with African elephants which recommends the transfer of animals between suitable collections to ensure that populations are managed appropriately.
He said both Jums and Coco, who is 15, were settling in well in their new homes after their long journeys.
"True, moving any animal to a different environment can be stressful, however this stress is always short-lived" - Neil Spooner
He said: "It’s always interesting to hear the views of those who live in a 'black-and-white' world. It’s also interesting when truth and half truth are mixed together to further a cause that will countenance no rational debate.
"True, the African elephant breeding programme requires the birth of more calves in order to become a self sustaining population.
"True, moving any animal to a different environment can be stressful, however this stress is always short-lived and without this type of transfer, breeding programmes globally would collapse.
"Not true is the claim of premature death relating to all those animals which are relocated as part of well constructed and genetically sound breeding programmes.
"The exchange of the bull elephants between Howletts Wild Animal Park and Cabarceno Animal Park in Spain was absolutely necessary if we are to achieve our goals and have elephants in European zoos in years to come.
"Both these collections have a proven track record in terms of breeding elephants and both are world leaders in this field.
"It is interesting to note that when the Born Free Foundation crates animals up and transfers them thousands of miles across the world to achieve their own goals there is no mention of any negative effects of stress in their publicity.
"The vast majority of ordinary people, who are not associated with zoos or conservation, will make up their own minds and will understand that without help and support animals, both in captivity and the wild, are in deep trouble and need all the help they can get."
Coco has already successfully mated with several females at his former home in Spain and keepers at Howletts have high hopes that he will be a hit with the female herd, enabling them to continue their impressive breeding record with African elephants.
Mr Spooner said: "We’re going to let Coco settle in and get used to his new surroundings, then we plan to introduce him to the herd here."
Head of the elephant section Natalie Boyd added: "I think that our females Jama and Jara will be particularly interested in getting to know him. They are both excellent allomothers to the younger members of the herd and will soon be ready to start families of their own."