The three American zoos who want to import elephants from southern Africa struck back at a lawsuit trying to stop them.
Lawyers for zoos in Wichita, Dallas and Omaha filed a motion in U.S. District Court seeking to dismiss claims made by an animal-rights group trying to block the transfer of 18 African elephants from Swaziland to the United States.
(Friends of Animals) is trying to use the federal court system to pursue its own agenda rather than to state a legally valid claim.
Zoos’ motion to dismiss the lawsuit
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Wichita Eagle
Friends of Animals “is trying to use the federal court system to pursue its own agenda rather than to state a legally valid claim,” according to the motion filed in Washington, D.C., last week.
“This lawsuit simply is not the proper vehicle for FoA to express its ideological opposition to elephants living in zoos.”
The Dallas Zoo, the Sedwick County Zoo and Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo each want six elephants from the import. The Sedgwick County Zoo is planning to open its new elephant exhibit this Memorial Day weekend.
But the group’s wildlife law program in Colorado filed for a preliminary injunction to stop the import. They say the government violated the National Environmental Policy Act by not considering the mental and physical well-being of the elephants in its decision.
The zoos, siding with the wildlife service in the legal fight, argue the group’s members can’t be harmed by the transfer and won’t benefit from stopping it from going through.
If the import is halted, these elephants will be killed.
“If the import is halted, these elephants will be killed – there will be no ‘do-over’ of the permit application process,” the motion says.
It also says the group’s discomfort of keeping elephants in zoos does not qualify as “environmental harm” that the National Environmental Policy Act tries to prevent.
“This is not like the construction of a dam … or the building of a highway,” the zoos say. “FoA has not alleged that the elephant import will affect any land, river, air or other natural resource.”
Court records show the Fish and Wildlife Service’s response to the lawsuit is due Friday. A preliminary injunction hearing is scheduled for March 17.