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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A group of protesters gathered outside the Dallas Zoo Sunday afternoon, voicing displeasure with the recent acquisition of elephants from Swaziland.

Zoo officials argue the animals are safe.

Earlier this month 17 elephants were transported from Swaziland to Alliance Airport in Fort Worth.

Five of them were loaded onto flatbed trucks and driven to the Dallas Zoo. The other 12 elephants were divided between other zoos in Wichita, Kansas and Omaha, Nebraska.

The group ‘Animal Connection of Texas’ supports the claim that elephants do not belong in captivity.

“Wild elephants and zoos are a horrible combination” said Dereck Joubert, wildlife filmmaker and National Geographic explorer-in-residence. “Elephants need to roam and feed and interact with others daily, hourly, year after year. They need to revisit ancient burial sites and wander ancestral paths… [They need to live that way] to be whole. And they can’t be whole in a zoo.”

But in a statement issued Sunday, Gregg Hudson, president and CEO of the Dallas Zoo, said the rescued elephants have a safe haven there.

“The many people and experts who have examined this rescue with an open mind have been overwhelming in their support,” Hudson said. “That’s not the case for activists with an inflexible ideological agenda, who are trying to take advantage of this rescue mission for their own benefit.”

Hudson said the more than one million people who will visit the Dallas Zoos this year “know we have the best interests of animals at heart, and that the best place for these wonderful elephants is right here in the Giants of the Savanna with our state-of-the-art animal care facilities.”

“Our first and foremost concern has always been the well-being of these elephants,” he said. “It was absolutely in their best interest to relocate them as soon as possible.”

In the days leading up to their arrival, Dallas Zoo officials said that the elephants were in an overpopulated wildlife park and in danger of dying from the severe drought. Initially, 18 elephants were to be make the trip, but one died of a gastrointestinal illness before the journey began.

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