The future of elephants at Auckland Zoo is assured after a commitment from the Auckland City Council to go with a succession plan for elephants Kashin and Burma.

The council voted yesterday to have a herd of elephants at the zoo, but is awaiting the outcome of the Royal Commission of Inquiry on Auckland Governance to spread the $13.5 million cost across the region and private sources.

There had been fears the global recession would force the zoo to end its 80-year association with elephants when Kashin, 40, died. She has bad arthritis and could die within five years. Because female elephants are extremely social animals, 26-year-old Burma, another female, would have to go to an overseas zoo for company unless the zoo can get new elephants.

Zoo director Jonathan Wilcken has come up with a plan to build a herd of three females and two males between 2011 and 2015. It will entail acquiring 22,000sq m of land from the Western Springs park to enlarge the enclosure.

The capital costs will be $11 million, plus $2.45 million to import the elephants. Annual operating costs will rise to $460,000, including up to 11 specialist staff.

The council is going to prepare a plan to raise the money locally, regionally and nationally and from private and commercial sources.