Hanoi Zoo elephants are finally unchained

30 June 2015

The elephant off chain with skyline 3

Three Asian elephants at Hanoi Zoo are finally free to wander in a grassy enclosure after years confined by chains – thanks to Animals Asia, Change for Animals Foundation, and Wild Welfare.

One of the elephants has been at the zoo since 2010, while two were transferred from Dak Lak just last year. But all three females have until now spent the vast majority of their lives constricted by one metre-long chains attached to their ankles.

The chains had been worn for so long, that many of the elephant’s legs carry constant scars.

While Animals Asia would prefer animals remained in the wild – its work with zoos is on the basis of providing assistance to animals that need most help.

Elephant off chain 2

Animals Asia Animal Welfare Officer Nguyen Tam Thanh said:

“We’ve been lucky enough to work with Hanoi Zoo for the last two years and have been delighted by how willing the facility is to boost capacity, learn and improve the lives of the animals on site.

“It may be the most prestigious zoo in the country, but Hanoi Zoo is still hampered by tight budgets and a lack of highly qualified staff. They’ve never had the funds or the expertise necessary to safely allow the elephant to roam off the chain – which shouldn’t be confused with a lack of desire to allow these amazing animals more freedom.

“Thankfully, we were able to bring highly qualified volunteers to Hanoi who have built the infrastructure and shown staff how to use and maintain it. The animals seem infinitely more comfortable now that they are not constantly restrained. We’d like to thank Hanoi Zoo for giving us the opportunity to work with them, and for their willingness to make changes for the benefit of the animals on site.”

Animals Asia, Change for Animals Foundation and Wild Welfare has been working with Hanoi Zoo since April 2013 to help introduce enrichment, species-specific enclosure infrastructure and train staff in animal husbandry in order to improve animal welfare at the facility.

Over the past two years, some of the most notable improvements of Animals Asia’s programme include:

  • Walkways, platforms and hiding places for the clouded leopard.
  • Climbing structures for bears.
  • Raised platform, spring feeder and scratching post for tigers.
  • Hammocks, swinging and resting structures, puzzle feeders and sleeping boxes for macaques and gibbons.
  • Walkways for groups of male binturongs.
  • Creating digging sites for porcupines.
  • Integrating a baby langur with an adult.

On site training for zoo staff has taught keepers the concepts of animal training and husbandry as a means of improving welfare as well as teaching them how to cheaply build and maintain enrichment structures.

Expert volunteers expect to return later in the year to help integrate the three elephants and further boost their welfare.