"Unfortunately, a photograph printed in the media recently has resulted in some people taking the image out of context and making allegations about the treatment of elephants at Perth Zoo which are simply untrue,” Acting Chief Executive Officer Maria Finnigan said.
"Our Exercise for Elephants program is for people to participate in personal training sessions inside the Zoo grounds for 45 minutes and at the end, have an elephant experience, which may include the elephants walking past during their morning walk, doing some stretching or having breakfast.
It does not include forcing our elephants to engage in any type of exercise or behaviour that is harmful to them, (as was inaccurately described by some who have seen a recent media image).
Our elephants take part in exercise and enrichment programs that include stretches to keep them physically and mentally healthy. All of our enrichment programs are assessed by veterinary teams, zoologists and are assessed using an animal welfare framework.
Our keepers are highly skilled experts. They enjoy a close relationship with our animals based on trust and respect, and Perth Zoo has a long track record which demonstrates this.
We take our commitment and responsibility for these individual elephants seriously. Being long-lived animals with individual care requirements we have an all of life care approach which is regularly assessed to meet their diverse and changing needs.
We are also committed to the conservation and protection of wildlife beyond the zoo gates.
The intent of the Exercise for Elephants program is to further engage the public and importantly to raise funds for elephant conservation in the wild. To date we have funded approximately $1.5 million to protect the Bukit Tigapuluh ecosystem in Sumatra which includes protecting a herd of rare Sumatran elephants via dedicated Wildlife Protection Units.
The welfare of every single one of the animals in our care is our number one priority. The opportunity to be involved in action for elephants as a species is embedded in our purpose to support measurable conservation outcomes in the wild."