Animal rights protesters who blocked the transfer of eight Asian elephants from Thailand to Australia placed the animals under "horrific stress," Environment Minister Ian Campbell said yesterday.
He said it could be some weeks before the animals are brought to Australia.
A group of protesters stopped trucks carrying the elephants from leaving a quarantine station in the western Thai province of Kanchanaburi late Monday, bound for Bangkok's airport.
The standoff continued into Tuesday, when about 15 villagers gathered outside the station to protest the move. Officials eventually removed the animals from the trucks and took them back to their quarters.
The protesters claim the animals will suffer in the Sydney and Melbourne zoos that have purchased them.
"The elephant transfer was halted by the deplorable actions of a small handful of protesters, people who say they care about animal welfare but who clearly don't," Campbell told reporters in Perth.
He said the protesters jumped on the trucks and banged on the elephants' cages.
"How could you possibly take seriously anyone who says that they care for the elephants when they put the elephants under that sort of horrific stress? It really is an outrage," he added.
Authorities had planned to fly the elephants on Monday night to a temporary home in Australia's Cocos islands where they were to have been quarantined for three months.
Campbell said the zoos had decided to postpone the move to prevent any further stress to the elephants.
"I think it will be some weeks before they are moved again," the minister said.
The elephants have been kept in quarantine in Thailand for more than a year as animal rights groups in both Thailand and Australia fought to prevent the transfer.
In December, an Australian court cleared the way for the move to Sydney's Taronga Zoo and Melbourne Zoo in Victoria state as long as they met certain conditions guaranteeing the elephants' welfare.
Source: China Daily