© Shauna Corr The elephants are both in their 40s and not in any breeding programmes
People across Northern Ireland had plenty to say after we broke the news Belfast Zoo elephants Yhetto and Dhunja will soon be packing their trunks.
The rescues, both in their 40s, were given sanctuary at the attraction after years working in the entertainment and logging industries.
But now management at the zoo say they are being relocated after a decision was taken to phase the species out of the zoo’s animal collection.
Read more: Belfast Zoo to ‘phase out’ elephants
And the move has been met with a mixed reaction.
Many told Belfast Live they are delighted for them, and hope they find an elephant sanctuary where they can “roam freely and enjoy the company of other elephants” while others said they’ll be sad to see them go.
“I hope they find a retirement home where they can live out a comfortable life,” one person commented.
Another added: “Hopefully, they’ll send them to the Tennessee Elephant Sanctuary where they can live out their lives wandering the hills of Tennessee, swimming in a lake and just being elephants.”
“Sad but happy to see the elephants go,” said a third.
The size of the elephant enclosure in Belfast was also a recurring theme, with one person telling us “the elephants were the ones that confirmed my decision to never go back – they looked broken”.
“A zoo only serves its purpose if the animals are suitable for the space they are in and not to mention climate and resources to look after them well,” another comment read.
While another said in their opinion “the area they are kept in is far too small, no pool for them to bathe, and very little interaction with other animals. They are an intelligent animal, its cruel keeping them in a shoe box confinement”.
Others praised the zoo for rescuing Yhetto and Dhunja and stopping them from “being abused”.
A zoo supporter said: “Do people not understand these animals where abused most of their lives and due to the trauma they suffered it will always cause them to sway and shuffle… Why not let the poor girls live the rest of their lives at our zoo!”
“Those that work there are passionate about animal welfare – I trust their decisions are in the best interest of the animals,” added another.
“I just hope wherever they are moved to has a larger enclosure for them and more enrichment. It is so depressing seeing them at Belfast zoo. Yes, it is a sanctuary compared to where they were before, but still totally inadequate.”
A Belfast City Council spokesperson said they meet all animal welfare standards and have provided the highest level of care for Yhetto and Dhunja who they took in as “the zoo has provided a sanctuary for older non-breeding female elephants in recent years”.
“The very difficult decision has been made to phase out elephants from the zoo’s future animal collection plan,” they added.
“Dhunja and Yhetto will be transferred together to another zoo in future, and we are working closely with the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria to identify the best possible new home for them.”