East West Link opponents: project risk to Zoo’s pregnant elephant Num-Oi

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The Age: East West Link opponents: project risk to Zoo’s pregnant elephant Num-Oi, November 24, 2014, Henrietta Cook and Farrah Tomazin

Opponents of the East West Link say the project is putting the health and well-being of animals at nearby Melbourne Zoo at -Oi at Melbourne Zoo. Photo: Wayne Taylor

When an elephant fell pregnant at Oregon Zoo, work on a nearby highway was halted for four months to avoid any chance of miscarriage.

Animals are like humans, they need sleep:  Moreland Community Against the East West Tunnel spokesman Michael Petit

At Melbourne Zoo, 150 metres from the East West Link and where Asian elephant Num-Oi’s pregnancy was celebrated last week, there will be no such arrangement.

Opponents of the Napthine government’s project say the health and wellbeing of animals is being put at risk, and the zoo is not taking the impacts of the road seriously.

A Zoo spokeswoman said the road was considered when Num-Oi was artificially inseminated in August following the death of her calf Sanook, who got stuck in a tyre.

“We did factor the East West Link into our thinking when we made the decision to artificially inseminate Num-Oi, and we are confident there will be no impact.”

The zoo consulted with Dr Thomas Hildebrandt, the world’s top elephant reproduction expert, before reaching its decision.

But confidential documents reveal that Melbourne Zoo told the Linking Melbourne Authority that elephants were sensitive to vibrations up to two kilometres away.

The East West Connect consortium, which has won the $5.3 billion contract to build the road, will also have to comply with “strict standards” so the zoo is not affected by noise, vibration and light spill.

“This ensures that the welfare of our animals is protected and that the operations of the Zoo are maintained,” a Zoo spokeswoman said.

At Oregon Zoo, no work on a highway was allowed in a 1.6 kilometre-long buffer zone near the zoo due to concerns about the impact on a pregnant Asian elephant.

Environmental engineer Petra Stock, who has bombarded the zoo with FOI requests, said the Zoo was not paying enough attention to the welfare of its animals.

“It would be great to see them actually demonstrating a level of seriousness about the whole thing. If this elephant is pregnant the gestation will coincide with construction, if the Coalition is returned. It’s a recipe for disaster.”

Moreland Community Against the East West Tunnel spokesman Michael Petit said the Zoo was putting its need for a new car park – which it has been promised as part of the project – ahead of the animals’ needs.

“There’s lights, blasting, glare and noise and when the project is finished there will be heaps of trucks going to Hastings. It will operate 24 hours a day. Animals are like humans, they need sleep.”

But an East West Connect spokesman said the consortium did not expect “any significant impact” on the animals from the tunnelling, and to reduce impact, the minister’s approval had included the removal of ramps at Elliot Avenue.

“To ensure there are no surprises, East West Connect will share with the Zoo data from vibration and noise monitoring,” the spokesman said.

“With the Zoo, East West Connect is developing management plans to ensure any construction issues are managed to protect animals and ensure access for visitors.”

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