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The capture and training of wild elephants for elephant back safaris and circuses in South Africa
I flew to South Africa on 7/11 to attend a one day meeting on 8/11 organized by the Department of Environment and Tourism (DEAT) to discuss the capture from the wild and training of elephants for elephant back safaris and circuses. The object of the meeting was for DEAT to hear the differing opinions of the "Elephant Industy", animal welfare and elephant experts and to incorporate these into the revised Norms and Standards for the Management of South Africa's Elephants. I was invited to present my opinions as an elephant expert.
This is the same process as the public discussions revolving around the culling (killing for population control) of elephants. Culling has received considerable international attention, but the public has been largely unaware of the inhumane treatment of elephants that goes on in the name of elephant back safaris. People have probably been unaware, too, that South Africa has circus elephants.
On 12th November DEAT announced that it had decided that captive elephants don't come under their jurisdiction, rather they come under the Animal Protection Act. Unfortunately the APA is, apparently, notoriously weak. At the moment the draft Norms and Standards will continue to allow the capture of elephants (calves taken from their families) and the training of these individuals for the "Elephant Industry".
As yet the Minister is not aware of the negative impact that the continuation of these outdated practices may have on South Africa's image internationally. He will receive the draft document toward the end of the month. We still have an opportunity to influence his decision and I will be writing to him to convey mine.