YANGON, Myanmar - First, the civil servants were transferred to Myanmar's newly built capital deep in the countryside. Now, it's time for the rhinos and elephants to move.
The military government this week began using cranes and trucks to relocate scores of animals — including elephants, monkeys, birds, rhinos, bears and deer — out of the Zoological Garden in the biggest city, Yangon.
Fourteen trucks filled with animals, many stuffed into small cages, were scheduled to depart late Friday for the new capital, Naypyitaw, 250 miles to the north. The first batch left on Tuesday.
The junta moved its ministries and offices in November 2005 from Yangon to Naypyitaw, a hot, dusty town surrounded by mountains and forests.
Some of the zoo animals were staying in Yangon. A zookeeper, Thiha Zaw, said some elephants howled and refused to eat after their herd was split up by the move.
"It was a very emotional and sad scene to see the elephants cry when their young friend was taken away from the shelter," the keeper said.
The animals being moved included a bear that zoo officials acknowledged had been in its temporary cage for days.
"It is very sad to see some big animals being crammed into small cages," an onlooker said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisal in this tightly controlled country.
Officials would give no reason for the move. A Myanmar magazine, Snapshot, said it was a matter of pride that a nation's capital should host a zoo. The Yangon zoo has been chronically short of funding to feed the animals and has been falling into disrepair.
The animals moving to Naypyitaw will be housed in a 200-acre facility that opens to the public March 27, Snapshot reported, citing unidentified zoo officials.
The ruling junta has said the new zoo would be world-class, but some critics have expressed concern that it lacks the infrastructure and lush vegetation the animals need to survive.