Franklin Zoo animals re-homed

Fate of elephant that crushed keeper uncertain

ANNA LOREN
Last updated 05:00 20/02/2013
Mila the elephant
TAKUMI WOODWARD

HOME NEEDED: Mila the elephant, shown with keeper Helen Schofield who was crushed to death last year. Zoo officials are still deciding which US facility to send Mila to.

Cotton-top tamarin
ANNA LOREN/ Fairfax NZ
BUTTERFLY NEIGHBOURS: Franklin Zoo's cotton-top tamarins have found new homes at Butterfly Creek.

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All 430 of Franklin Zoo's animals have found new homes - apart from Mila the elephant, as keepers agonise over which of three facilities in the US to send the elephant to.

Franklin Zoo closed its doors last year after owner Helen Schofield was crushed to death by former circus elephant, Mila.

Rehoming many of the animals proved difficult, Schofield's sister and zoo trustee Jenny Chung said.

''It was really hard because Franklin Zoo was a sanctuary that was the last port of call for these animals because no-one else wanted them.

''We're very grateful to all the facilities that have put themselves out there so that these animals can continue to live good lives.''

Like Mila, many of the animals came from circuses and displayed strange, ''humanised'' behaviour, Chung said.

''Some are elderly, some are blind, one-eyed, three-legged - they've got all sorts of physical and behavioural problems.''

The zoo's keepers have been reluctant to announce which facilities they are choosing between for Mila but said they would start fundraising soon to pay for the cost of rehoming Mila.

In the meantime the Franklin Zoo Charitable Trust has hired a world-class elephant programme manager to help look after Mila.

Among animals that have found new homes are four cotton-top tamarins that have been rehomed at Butterfly Creek, near Auckland Airport. 

The tamarins - Ay, Chaka, Merida and Miracle - were all moved last week.

The cotton-top tamarins were sent to the sanctuary because they were not part of a breeding programme, Chung said.

The decision to exclude the four from the gene pool was made by the Zoo and Aquarium Association, which co-ordinates zoo breeding programmes across Australasia.

The tiny monkeys are critically endangered and it's estimated there are only 6,000 of them in the wild, all in the Central American country of Colombia.

They weigh, on average, just 430 grams and live to about 22 years old in captivity.

Butterfly Creek animal manager Amy Keller said the pint-sized primates have very distinct personalities.

''Chaska is a very friendly little critter - she's the dominant one. Miracle is a lot more cheeky and mischievous.
 ''Merida loves her food and Ay is just a calm, relaxed dude.''

The four are living in two separate enclosures in Butterfly Creek's tropical butterfly house, where they're fed a diet of fruit and insects.

''Because they're such small animals they do need a lot of energy so they need food constantly,'' Keller said.

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