ISSUED ON MONDAY 19 MAY 2014
CONTACT PERSON : WENDY WILLSON on 011907 3590/1/2/3
NSPCA Lays Animal Cruelty Charges
The National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) has laid animal cruelty charges against Elephants of Eden, the Knysna Elephant Park, their directors and management including Lizette Withers, in terms of the Animals Protection Act, 71 of 1962 for cruelty to elephants.
This proved necessary after the NSPCA received horrific footage depicting the cruel and abusive training methods employed to control and train baby and young elephants for their future, captive lives in the elephant-based tourist industry.
Wendy Willson, National NSPCA Inspector, has stated that the footage shows elephant calves and juvenile elephants being chained, roped and stretched, shocked with electric cattle prods and hit with bull hooks– all methods used to force these gentle giants to submit to the will of their trainers and handlers. "The elephants show signs of crippling injuries with severely swollen legs and feet, debilitating abscesses and wounds resulting from the abusive use of ropes, chains, and bull hooks. The calculated and premeditated cruelty of this nature that took place at this facility is a far cry from the loving sanctuary image that Elephants of Eden/Knysna Elephant Park like to portray,” continued Willson.
The footage was taken on the premises of Elephants of Eden situated in the Eastern Cape – a property defined as a safe haven for elephants and owned by the same entities who own the Knysna Elephant Park. The facility and its remaining elephants have recently been moved to the Western Cape to join the Knysna Elephant Park.
In simple terms; due to the size, intelligence and nature of elephants, training most often takes place through domination, and the breaking of the elephant's spirit. In order to dominate or force one's will onto an animal such as the elephant, force needs to be applied and thus is a recipe for abuse. The footage is proof of this.
A growing number of people in South Africa and around the world have suffered severe and fatal injuries as a result of the rebellion of trained elephants kept in captivity. Elephants of Eden and the Knysna Elephant Park are no exceptions: - at these facilities two elephant handlers have been killed and others have been seriously injured. The most recent case occurred in 2011.
The captive elephant interaction industry is a form of tourism driven by greed and without any conservation benefit. Additionally, no dedicated laws exist in South Africa to govern methods used in handling or training elephants for interaction tourism, and trainers and handlers do not require any formal training or education to be able to work with or handle elephants.
At a recent inspection of the Knysna Elephant Park, even though the NSPCA had a warrant to inspect the premises, we were denied entry by Lizette Withers. We were obliged to obtain assistance from the police in order to effect the warrant. Ms Withers only permitted entry when she was advised that her persistent refusal would lead to her arrest. A charge of obstruction has also been laid against Ms Withers.
The NSPCA subscribes to the credo that "wild animals belong in the wild” and is opposed to the removal of elephants from the wild for domestication purposes. We believe that elephants should not be trained, kept in captivity and/or used for entertainment.
NATIONAL COUNCIL OF SPCAs
ISSUED ON TUESDAY 20 MAY 2014
The National Council of SPCAs refers to the media statement issued by the Knysna Elephant Park and Elephants of Eden and considers it noteworthy that the document contains neither concern nor compassion for the elephants that were the victims of abuse. To us, the horrific mistreatment of these baby elephants is the key to the whole matter. We care. We took action, and the public is standing behind us, recognising that harsh treatment and blatant cruelty cannot be explained away or excused, no matter how long ago it may have occurred.
It appears from the Knysna Elephant Park / Elephants of Eden statement that nothing was done to stop the mistreatment of the baby elephants and no action, other than a "labour process”, was taken against the offenders. This is unacceptable.
Public reaction to the visuals has demonstrated disgust, shock and horror at the treatment meted out to these captive baby elephants owned by the Knysna Elephant Park and Elephants of Eden.
Elephants taken from the wild are "broken in” during a training process undertaken at the Elephants of Eden/Knysna Elephant Park so they can perform their working functions, which includes giving rides to visitors. Human interaction activities include walking amongst the elephants, hand-feeding the elephants and using them as photographic props at events such as weddings.
CURRENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1 If the abuse took place in 2008, why is it only being publicised now?
The matter only came to our attention recently. This is blatant cruelty and we have laid criminal charges in terms of the Animals Protection Act. The legal process will now take its course. If, as stated in her media release, Lisette Withers knew about this at the time, why didn't the Knysna Elephant Park or Elephants of Eden take appropriate action or draw it to the attention of the relevant authorities?
2 Why are the elephants still in the possession of the Knysna Elephant Park?
The elephants are owned by Lisette and Ian Withers of the Knysna Elephant Park and Elephants of Eden, they have permission from the relevant provincial department to keep them on that property.
3 What is the NSPCA doing about the elephants still on the property?
We have consulted with our legal representatives, who will be taking the appropriate action. Ultimately, it will be for the courts to decide.
There is also another issue, which relates to the 4 baby elephants whose mothers were shot and killed in the NW Province. They were allegedly purchased by Knysna Elephant Park/Elephants of Eden. We are continuing in our efforts, through legal channels as well, to have these youngsters removed from the premises.
4 Why does Lisette Withers of the Knysna Elephant Park/Elephants of Eden hate and despise the NSPCA?
Lisette Withers in an interview stated "they (NSPCA) are stealing every old woman's pension money. I despise them, they set things up and act like watchdogs, they think they are gods”. It is reported by eNCA that Withers accused the NSPCA of sensationalism and only being interested in money.
We don't think that it takes rocket science to understand why Lisette Withers of the Knysna Elephant Park/Elephants of Eden hate and despise us – in fact we would expect nothing less.
We are an animal welfare organisation that relies on donations not only from ‘old women' but everyone who cares and concerns themselves with animals, we use the donations against facilities like the Knysna Elephant Park/Elephants of Eden, to do inspections, to research, and to bring about prosecutions. We will do everything to ensure that animal cruelty is exposed, the animals must be protected and the public have a right to know.
Date updated: 21/05/2014