Elephants Stuffed Into Planes Bound For U.S. Zoos — 18 Pachyderms Sedated And Transported Despite Opposition From Animal Rights Group

American zoos are about to receive 18 elephants that were sedated and stuffed onto planes. The pachyderms are being brought in from Swaziland, Africa. Six of these creatures will be received by the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium in Omaha, Nebraska. The exercise was intensely challenged by animal rights activists, but a U.S. judge approved the importation, citing concern for the animals.

Eighteen elephants are being brought in the United States from a small landlocked African country. A U.S. judge approved the importation of these animals despite overwhelming opposition from animal rights groups. The 18 elephants will be equally divided between Zoos in Omaha, Nebraska; Dallas, Texas; and Wichita, Kansas.

Essentially, the zoos sent an airplane to Swaziland, sedated 18 elephants, and loaded them up Tuesday. This might have forced the judge to make a decision in a hurry to allow the transport. These are arm-twisting techniques said the group Friends of Animals, who had attempted to block the elephants being imported.

Incidentally, their appeal had worked. U.S. District Judge John D. Bates had frozen the importation while he deliberated. However, it appears he was forced to allow the animals to be loaded onto the plane and transported. It seems the judge was concerned that if sedated an additional time, it may cause harm to the elephants. While allowing the import of the creatures, he noted the following.

“The defendant-intervenor zoos have represented that the elephants have already been sedated and placed in transit to the airport in Swaziland.”

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued permits in February, prompting Friends of Animals, an animal-rights group, to sue in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., reported Conservation Action Trust. The animal rights group expressed their surprise about the procedure executed by the zoos a week and a half before a scheduled hearing. Speaking about the tricks employed by the zoos, Michael Harris, the lawyer for Friends of Animals, said the following.

“They had every opportunity to tell us and the court that they were intending to do this. Obviously there is nothing technically legally binding them not to do this, but I think it’s sort of beyond the spirit of something one would expect of an adversary.”

The Dallas Zoo, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, and Wichita’s Sedgwick County Zoo jointly released a statement that indicated they were issued an importation permit by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Swaziland wildlife authorities, reported KEYE-TV. When the animal rights group attempted to legally intervene, the temporary restraining order was denied, which effectively gave the green signal to load the animals in the plane for transportation to the United States.

The zoos had earned approval to import elephants from Africa after a scientific review from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allowed the application to be passed. Moreover, they claim it was imperative to save the animals as the region where they are currently located has become inhospitable.

“It is in (the elephants’) best interest to relocate them as soon as possible. Swaziland is in a state of national disaster due to severe, historic drought that has killed tens of thousands of animals. Food throughout the region is scarce. We are relieved that the Court denied the request for a temporary restraining order. The attempt by activists to further delay the relocation only jeopardized the animals. The elephants would have been killed if not relocated.”

Preliminarily, it appears the zoos sedated the elephants quite early in order to hasten the judicial deliberations. The lawyer for the animal rights group shared he had learnt about the actions of the zoos in Swaziland from an anonymous Swazi official.

The zoos haven’t shared a timeline about the elephants’ arrival, citing their safety. However, Harris claims they should have already landed.

[Photo by Daniel Hayduk/Getty Images]