By Ainsley Hay
At a recent stakeholder meeting called by the Department of Environmental Affairs to discuss proposed amendments to the Elephant Norms and Standards, it became apparent that the Department appears to be intending to remove all welfare-based provisions relating to elephants.
The Department states that it is experiencing difficulties enforcing and implementing the Elephant Norms and Standards. This has been highlighted by the recent civil charges laid regarding the four elephant calves illegally removed from the wild at Sandhurst Safaris, and placed into captivity at Elephants of Eden and now Knysna Elephant Park, an elephant-back safari operator.
The Department is essentially proposing that instead of addressing its shortcomings in enforcement and implementation, it will simply remove the pieces of the law that are being broken. No other concrete motivations have been provided.
The proposed alterations to the Norms and Standards could allow the removal of elephants from the wild for captivity, and allow elephants to be exported and imported out of and into our country, opening up an easy route to launder and trade with these animals. There is extensive cruelty involved with the training methods used to dominate and break elephants for elephant-back riding, and this cannot be allowed or supported.
These Norms and Standards were created in 2008 with the founding principles of preventing new elephants from undergoing the cruelty associated with the captive industry, and protection of biodiversity in wild areas where elephants are kept. We believe that these principles must be upheld and not eroded (by the interests of a few economically-invested stakeholders).
An alliance has been formed consisting of the following individuals or organisations: – the NSPCA, Public Watch, Eden Forum for Wildlife Welfare Science and Ethics, Working Wild, Elephant Specialist Advisory Group, Lawrence Anthony Foundation, IFAW, Freeme Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre NPC Gauteng, FOUR PAWS Animal Welfare Foundation and the Conservation Action Trust. We will be submitting our concerns and opposition to the suggested revisions of the Norms and Standards to the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Minister Edna Molewa.
The relevant documents regarding this are available on request.
We strongly believe the public has the right to be informed, as these proposed amendments will have far reaching consequences for South Africa’s Elephants. The Department has not asked for public comment on these proposed alterations to date, but please contact the Department directly if you would like to be involved or give comment.
Ainsley Hay works for the National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in South Africa.