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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Belfast’s last two elephants set for new home at Burgers Zoo

Dhunja and Yhetto the last two remaining elephants at Belfast Zoo.

Dhunja and Yhetto


Belfast City Council has confirmed that Dhunja and Yhetto, the last remaining elephants housed in Northern Ireland's only zoo, are set for savannahs new.


At a meeting of the city's council on Monday evening, 4th September, the move was approved for the much-loved gentle giants to be sent to Burgers Zoo in the Netherlands.



Following the council meeting Cllr Conor Maskey commented:


"Belfast Zoo needs to meet the standards for all species housed there.


"Tonight's Council agreed to move it's only remaining two elephants to Holland, as the Zoo didn't meet standards required for housing them.


"Investment and care for housing all species at the Zoo must be priority."



Northern Ireland has long enjoyed having elephants cared for at the zoo, and it will no doubt be a sad day for both zookeepers and the public when Dhunja and Yhetto embark upon the journey to their new home.


An enduring true story of one of Belfast's elephants was retold in the movie Zoo. During the Blitz in 1941, the Ministry of Public Security ordered several animals to be killed in case they escaped during air raids.


Sheila the baby elephant pictured in the back yard of a terraced house in Belfast during 1941.
Sheila the baby elephant pictured in the back yard of a terraced house in Belfast during 1941.
Sheila the baby elephant pictured in the back yard of a terraced house in Belfast during 1941.

However, Denise Austin, a keeper at the zoo, became known as the ‘elephant angel’, when she secretly walked Sheila the elephant from the zoo each evening to the backyard of her terraced home on the Whitewell Road in the north of the city. There she cared for and comforted the young elephant as the Luftwaffe bombs rained down over Belfast.



Commenting today (Wednesday 6th September) on the decision to move the elephants, a spokesperson for Belfast City Council said:


“Belfast City Council has agreed to transfer Dhunja and Yhetto from Belfast Zoo to Burgers Zoo in the Netherlands.


“Preparatory work will now begin to ensure a safe and stress-free journey for the elephants. It is likely to take up to one year to plan their move.



“While the whole Zoo team will be sad to see Dhunja and Yhetto leave, their new home will provide a rich environment, well suited to their age and particular background. They will join another non-breeding pair of similar age to make up a herd of four, in keeping with BIAZA guidelines.


“Dhunja and Yhetto have enjoyed, and will continue to receive, the highest standards of care at Belfast Zoo until they are ready to begin the journey to their new home."


Dhunja, one of the last two remaining elephants at Belfast Zoo.

Dhunja


The Council spokesperson continued:


“A number of improvements have taken place at the zoo in recent years to enhance animal habitats and improve the visitor experience, including this summer’s opening of a new lion enclosure.


"An overall regeneration plan for the wider zoo site, as well as options around the future homing of large mammals, will be presented to councillors for consideration in due course.”

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