- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 30, 2016

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Federal wildlife officials and three U.S. zoos want a judge to drop a lawsuit against the recent importation of African elephants.

The Wichita Eagle (https://bit.ly/1UUBWMT ) reports that in a motion to dismiss the case, the zoos said legal concerns about the permit process were irrelevant because the 17 elephants were flown from Swaziland to the U.S. earlier this month. The zoos are in Wichita, Kansas; Omaha, Nebraska; and Dallas.

Friends of Animals sued in February to stop the proposed importation, alleging that the government violated the law by approving the importation. The animal rights group hasn’t dropped the lawsuit, saying it needs to prevent future importations.

The Connecticut-based nonprofit, as well as other conservationists and animal-rights supporters, opposes the importation of the elephants to zoos in Wichita, Dallas and Omaha because they’re highly intelligent, migratory animals.

Friends of Animals was awaiting a hearing on a preliminary injunction in March when it heard that the move had already started. A judge denied the group’s last-minute request for a restraining order to stop the transfer in the middle of the process.

“These elephants were whisked away at midnight just days before a judge could hear our case,” said Priscilla Feral, the group’s president. “It was a sleazy deal.”

The motion filed by the Sedgwick County Zoo in Kanas, the Dallas Zoo and Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium says that the sudden transfer was necessary.

“Given that the elephants remained in a temporary holding condition, in a country ravaged by drought and a scarcity of food for animals and were being fed at the zoos’ expense, the zoos could not have been expected to wait,” the motion says.

The Friends of Animals’ response is due to the court by April 13.

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, https://www.kansas.com

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