Sean Dundas1*


“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
Mahatma Gandhi



I am just appalled by this!
The NSPCA received horrifying 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.
horrorElephants of Eden, the Knysna Elephant Park, their directors and management including Lizette Withers, are all being charged with animal cruelty. They are being sued by The National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) in terms of the Animals Protection Act, 71 of 1962 for cruelty to elephants.
Good, I say, fantastic, great! They must have nothing more to do with those (these) wonderful, noble animals! Elephant calves and young elephants were chained, roped and stretched. They were shocked with electric cattle prods and hit with bull hooks. These were the methods used to force these gentle giants to submit to the will of their trainers and handlers in Elephants of Eden.
Wendy Wilson, the NSPCA Inspector commented: “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,” she continued.
Elephants taken from the wild were “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.
For goodness sakes, elephants should be in the wild, not giving some three year old a ride on it’s back or being used in wedding photos! I simply boil over at this. How dare they use the elephants in this circus-like way? What amazes me is that Lizette Withers, the Head of the Knysna Elephant Park apparently spent time with Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick in Kenya and attended an internationally acclaimed elephant Husbandry course in the United States of America. She knows how elephants should be treated and yet she allows them to be treated thus!
Twenty years ago I went to Kenya and stayed with two friends, Fiona Coyne and Willie Fritz. What a totally wonderful holiday I spent with the two of them. Fiona was working for Daphne Sheldrick. For more than half a century, Daphne has looked after orphaned elephants and other animals in Kenya. Her elephant orphanage sits in a corner of Nairobi National Park. Every morning, daphne_254772kfor just an hour, it is open to tourists who come from all over the world to watch the orphans, aged up to three years, play in their mud bath and drink bottles of milk fed to them by their keepers. I can’t remember what Fiona’s job was. I think that she was doing book keeping for Daphne. Each morning she would go out there and much to my delight, I accompanied her. There I got a first hand glimpse of the care with which these baby elephants were handled.
Some of them have had dramatic rescues, and many are traumatised from the loss of their families. They attach themselves to keepers who are with them at all times. Each elephant has its own room, or stockade, where they sleep. They have to be separated or they keep each other awake, like children! A keeper stays with them all night. The rota is varied so the elephants don’t get too attached to one individual).
This is not a zoo, merely a holding station from which the elephants will one day return to the wild. When they are ready, the elephants will move from the nursery, as it is known, to one of the relocation centres in Tsavo National Park, 180 miles south-east of Nairobi – a sort of halfway house – with a view to joining the wild elephant communities in the park. It can take several years for them to integrate. Elephants have an uncanny, almost telepathic way of communicating, and sometimes a new intake of orphans will be greeted by the existing set, which is waiting for them, having somehow known in advance that they are coming. Even after they have joined a herd, they will often come back to their stockades if they are sick or injured, or to show off their new wild born babies to their keepers.
al1When Lawrence Anthony, the author of The Elephant Whisperer died, an amazing thing happened. The formerly violent, rogue elephants, destined to be shot a few years ago as pests, were rescued and rehabilitated by Anthony. These two elephant herds, according to his wife Francoise, both arrived at the family compound shortly after Anthony’s death.
“They had not visited the house for 5 months,” Francoise said, “They all arrived at the main house in solemn procession on Sunday 4th March, two days after my husband passed away. They just stood and hanged around for a couple of hours, waiting, as if they knew something terrible had happened.” For the following two years they did exactly the same thing. They say an elephant never forgets. These two herds have not forgotten. Each year they come out of the bush to pay homage to the man they had loved.

al2As the NSPCA says “wild animals belong in the wild”. It is opposed to the removal of elephants for domestication purposes. It is their belief that elephants should not be trained, kept in captivity or used for entertainment. How dare Elephants of Eden and Knysna Elephant Park treat their elephants in this abusive manner! If the case is brought to court and the directors and managers are convicted, they could face sentences of up to three years in jail on each charge and lose all their elephants.
I don’t care about the time spent in jail. I want them to lose their elephants. Young elephants being chained, roped and stretched, being shocked with electric cattle prods and clubbed with bull hooks…..
I fear for them….