Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Elephant, Not Culture at Issue in B.C. Woman's Campaign to Save Japan's Oldest

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Elephant, Not Culture at Issue in B.C. Woman's Campaign to Save Japan's Oldest

Article excerpt

Expert crowdfunded to help Japan's oldest elephant

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VANCOUVER - All Carol Buckley wishes for her first encounter with Japan's oldest elephant is that zookeepers accompany her to Hanako's concrete enclosure and allow her to peacefully observe.

When the elephant behaviour consultant from Tennessee travels to Tokyo on Thursday to improve the 69-year-old animal's welfare she says she will not "go bombarding in like an American."

"Although they may not openly disagree with your approach, you will find doors closed to you if you don't respect their culture," said Buckley. "The bottom line is, this situation with Hanako is not a cultural issue. It's an elephant issue."

Buckley, an expert with more than 40 years' experience, has been hand-picked by a Vancouver woman spearheading a global campaign to make the elephant's final years more comfortable.

Ulara Nakagawa says she secured a meeting with administrators at the Inokashira Park Zoo after garnering more than 411,000 signatures in an online petition. The international attention since early February generated nearly 950 people donating more than US$29,000 for the pair to assess the famous elephant's health and living conditions.

"The clock is ticking for her," said Nakagawa.

The 35-year-old woman took on the project after an online supporter started the petition, inspired by a blog post Nakagawa wrote last fall decrying Hanako's "concrete prison."

Nakagawa and Buckley have arranged two meetings at the zoo using a Japanese translator.

"Our approach is that we just really want to be open and humble and collaborative," said Nakagawa.

"I want to take the opportunity and I want to take it as far as I can, because I think it's not only important for Hanako but it sets a precedent for other elephants in captivity all around the world."

The zoo did not immediately respond to request for comment. …

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