The submission also relates to the Management, Breeding, Hunting, Trade, Handling and related matters to the ELEPHANT, LION, LEOPARD AND RHINOCEROS


Component II: Elephants in Captivity – General (page 110 – 117)

  1. Elephants are highly social and have the largest social network of any mammal yet studied other than humans. There is a vast amount of research on elephant biology and behaviour which show that humans and elephants share the same attributes – once thought unique to humans.
  2. The susceptibility of elephants to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder demonstrates that among all species, elephants are extremely vulnerable to suffering in a captive setting.
  3. What we have learned about elephants means that we are confronting very real ethical issues in relation to our current policies and legislation that affects them.
  4. Globally there is huge concern for the well-being of elephants in captivity, particularly in relation to abuses attributable to the captive elephant industry, including:
    1. Capture of juvenile elephants from wild family groups.
    2. Cruel training and controlling methods – which typically involves the use of physical and psychological punishment.
    3. The conditions in which elephants are kept.
    4. The safety of people handling them.
  5. Several high profile cases illustrate these concerns, particularly in relation to ‘training’.
  6. The captive elephant industry has a history of cruel, abusive and domination training and deaths of handlers.
  7. The use of elephants in the elephant back safari industry is not only highly detrimental to elephants, but it also increases the risk of injury for personnel as well as the general public.
  8. In SA the training and keeping of elephants in captivity persists without adequate monitoring or control.
  9. As far back as 2005 a number of local and international animal protection organisations warned that South Africa can ill afford a rapidly growing captive elephant industry sliding out of control – but this is precisely what has happened.
  10. Once captured, elephants used in the elephant back safari industry and circuses are subjected to absolute control, social and physical deprivation, and in many cases, psychological and physical violence.
  11. Early trauma, chronic stress, and deprivation are common to elephants in captivity. The added stress and trauma exerted by such practices as beating, negative reinforcement, chaining, physical abuse, and social isolation further undermine elephant well-being that transmits laterally (among other elephants) and vertically (across generations). The experience of elephants in captivity is equivalent to that of many human prisoners and victims of torture.
  1. The elephant back safari industry, circuses and zoos employ a “dominance-based free contact” approach to elephant control. This involves a variety of tools and methods that cause intense distress, pain, and injury and are employed to limit elephant behaviour and movement.
    1. Bullhooks—wooden poles with a curved metal hook at one end—are used to inflict pain on sensitive areas of the elephants for the process of “breaking,” which is grounded in physical and emotional coercion to obtain absolute control.
    2. Typically, the breaking process begins with the removal of infants from their family units followed by bodily immobilisation, beating, and starvation/deprivation until the elephant accepts the trainer as his or her “master”.
    3. Negative reinforcement techniques are a part of regular training (e.g. bullhook beatings for poor performance, displays of resistance, and/or unapproved socialisation with other elephants).
    4. The power handlers exert over the elephants is psychologically corrosive because they play the dual role of the agent of captivity/abuse and of attachment/survival so the relationship always involves the potential for repeated trauma, fear, and harm.
  2. Well-documented South African insight into the elephant ‘training’ methods: the “Tuli elephant case”, where 30 juvenile elephants, between the ages of 2 and 5, were kidnapped from their families and abused for use by zoos, circuses and the elephant-back safari industry. It showed the weaknesses in the Animal Protection Act, which, for example, does not outlaw the beating and restraining of wild animals. The elephant owner was not barred from owning, handling or selling elephants and the light nature of the conviction sent a message to wild life dealers and elephant ‘trainers’ that, in South Africa, abuse of animals is encouraged.
  3. As far back as 1999 the magistrate in the Tuli case admitted that the Animal Protection Act was confusing and urged that it be re-drafted to bring it in line with international legislation and best practice relating to animal welfare and protection. This has not happened. WHY?
  4. Almost every elephant in captivity in South Africa, has been taken from the wild as babies or juveniles, kidnapped and forcibly removed from their families.
  5. No legislation exists in South Africa that governs the methods used in training elephants.
  6. In South Africa, the elephants in captive facilities are predominately managed in direct contact systems with only the two zoos managing their elephants in protected contact systems. In short, direct contact management occurs when the elephant and the handler share the same space without any barrier between them whereas protected contact management occurs where the elephant and the handler are separated by a fixed barrier. With direct contact handling, the manner of training or management requires dominance at varying levels depending on the facility, management & handlers. It has been shown that direct contact handling is very dangerous and injuries or deaths to elephant handlers in South Africa occur in direct contact handling. With direct contact handling comes associated risks such as injury and/or death for the handlers and guest. The statistics clearly highlight this risk and when handling elephants in direct contact it is not a case of if an incident will occur, it is, when will it occur. Naturally, the longer that elephants are handled in direct contact the sooner an incident will more than likely occur.
  1. Information about elephants in captivity in South Africa, including statistics, records on individual elephants, their movement, locations, overall audit census, etc. is not known or kept by national or provincial government, including by DALLRD or by DEFF.
  2. In August 2019 the EMS Foundation undertook a census of elephants in captivity in South Africa. There are 95 elephants in 21 captive facilities. Since 2014 there has been an 86% decrease in the number of facilities offering riding of elephants. This is largely due to the dangers involved to clients and handlers and global public pressure.
  3. The captive elephant industry obtains licences for their activities through the Performing Animals Protection Act―i.e. training, display, riding, interaction etc.―through PAPA and permits issued by conservation authorities.
  4. There is lack of clarity in terms of which government department―DALLRD or DEFF―is responsible for the keeping and ‘management’ of elephants in captivity. Neither the DALLRD the DEFF or the provincial conservation authorities are taking responsibility for the protection and welfare of elephants in captivity or elephants supplied to the industry.
  5. The reality is that government has dropped the ball in terms of the protection, welfare and interests of elephants in captivity.

Component III: Elephants in Captivity – Indaba

  1. On 6 September 2019, an international Indaba and Panel Discussion with national and international elephant behavioural specialists was convened in South Africa, to discuss the issue of elephants in captivity and to develop a framework as well as policy guidelines for dealing with elephants in captivity.
  2. The Indaba was the first consultative gathering of elephant specialists and elephant interest groups in Africa specifically dealing with elephants in captivity, the role Africa has in sending elephants into captivity and what we need to do to get them out of the metaphorical room.
  3. The overwhelming message was that elephants belong in the wild and must be returned to the wild in all cases where this is a legitimate possibility. Given what we know about who elephants are and the conditions under which they thrive, there is no reason to keep them in captivity.
  4. The Indaba and Panel discussion brought together a number of key international and local elephant experts, specifically on elephants who find themselves in captivity or who are captured for captivity. These experts were from diverse disciplines, including natural scientists, ethologists, ecologists, lawyers, researchers, NGOs and practitioners and comprising a body of expertise from scientific, conservation, legal, welfare, protection, rights, social justice, economic and advocacy communities. It brought together a total of some 120 participants including elephant specialists from South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, the USA, Britain and Europe; animal protection organisations, practitioners, management consultants, researchers, students, lawyers, representatives of the captive elephant industry and members of the public.
  5. South African government representatives of the province of the Western Cape, CapeNature, SANParks and the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, although invited to attend and participate as Panellists, did not send any representatives. This highlights the dismissive position that state environmental agencies take towards ethical and welfare concerns for the wild animals they have oversight and responsibility for, despite key constitutional and high court judgments which demand that they act differently.

6. The aim of the Indaba was to:

  1. Lend urgency to the issue of elephants in captivity.
  2. Reflect and take cognizance of the shift in public sentiment about elephants in captivity.
  3. Highlight Who elephants are.
  4. Place the plight of captive elephants, including the methods of ‘training’ into the public consciousness.
  5. Share the findings of an updated review/audit of captive elephant facilities in South Africa.
  6. Discuss the need to rehabilitate and re-wild and the framework and protocol developed in South Africa for this.
  7. Probe the capture and sale of young elephants from Zimbabwe and Namibia to zoos and circuses in China, Pakistan, the USA and others.
  8. Investigate the policy and legislative contexts, including the interpretation of the concept of ‘sustainable use’.
  9. Interrogate the convergence of issues coalescing around Africa, elephants in captivity, legislation, CITES regulations and resolutions, including the question of ‘appropriate destinations’, and loopholes within CITES in relation to the international trade in elephants into captivity.
  10. Examine potential legal interventions in relation to captive elephants.
  1. Topics presented were discussed and debated under the following themes:
    a.  Who elephants are and why they are not suited to live in a captive environment. b. New scientific paradigms, epigenetics and neuroscience which dictate thetransformation of conservation into self-determination and compel the reframingof how elephants are approached including within the social justice movement.
    c. Ecosystems need elephants and elephants need ecosystems: keeping elephants inthe wild, not captivity.
    d. Stress experienced by elephants in captivity, including in reserves and whereelephants have been rehabilitated and re-integrated. e. The value of elephants: Rands and sense. f. The value of elephants for society and conservation strategies that reconcile conservation and human wellbeing goals. g. Latest data on elephants in zoos worldwide.
    h. Policy contexts including trade, ‘sustainable use’ and the CITES ‘acceptable destinations’ issue.
    i. An analysis of legal interventions in relation to captive elephants.
    j. The policy framework of sustainable use in relation to animal welfare andelephants and legal challenges to it.
    k. Challenges and opportunities for animal welfare in Zimbabwe’s legal and policyframeworks with regard to the capture and sale of Zimbabwe’s young elephants. l. Zimbabwe’s live elephant captures for
    export to Dubai, Pakistan and China.
    m. Animal welfare considerations that decision makers need to bear in mind inrelation to keeping elephants in captivity.
    n. Current status of captive elephants and the captive elephant industry in SouthAfrica.
    o. Reintegration and rewilding of elephants from captivity p. The way forward.
  2. Indaba Summary Conclusions and Recommendations: 1. Elephants are a keystone species and are an essential component of ecosystems. If one takes the keystone out of an arch it collapses. They are ecological engineers upon which many other species depend. Without elephants, the integrity of a dynamic ecosystem disintegrates. Elephants engineer proper functionality in the wild. Elephants also help to mitigate climate change, so the protection of their wild spaces is ever more urgent.
  1. Elephants are sentient beings who live socially complex lives through relationships which radiate out from a mother-offspring bond through families, clans, and sub populations. Independent males form long-term friendships. ‘Elephants communicate through more than 300 gestures, complex speech and glandular secretions. They contemplate, negotiate, collaborate, plan and are aware of death. They care about their lives.
  2. Elephants are big eaters and need an eclectic diet. In nature they roam across long distances and different habitats and spend almost three-quarters of their lives acquiring necessary and different nutrients. The physical activity and mental stimulation involved in the search for food items across large landscapes constitutes the very core of an elephant’s interest and survival.
  3. Elephants share with humans the same brain, same consciousness and the same vulnerability to trauma. They can experience psychological and social breakdown. Trauma spreads from parent to child, neighbour to neighbour. Symptoms include depression, fear, panic, flashbacks, nightmares, aggression, infanticide and violence against others and self. Trauma also profoundly undermines their immune system and physiological functions.
  4. Human activity, from fencing, noise, to capture, confinement and cruel training is having an increasingly negative effect on the welfare of elephants.
  5. In confinement, captive elephants lack the very foundation of elephant life.
  6. Holding elephants in captivity causes them enormous stress and constitutes cruelty.
  7. The capture of baby and young elephants causes post-traumatic stress (PTSD) that can last decades.
  8. Capturing wild elephants and removing them from their families is totally unacceptable.
  9. Elephants suffer when confined.
  10. In captivity elephants are less aware, move slowly and droop. Those who have worked with elephants have noted depression and sadness.
  11. There is an epidemic of PTSD among elephants in captivity.
  12. Confinement even in the best facilities constitutes cruelty.
  13. Captivity is simply unsuitable for elephants.
  14. There are currently 1770 elephants worldwide in captive facilities, of which 84% are in zoos. Most of these are in the United States, followed by China, Germany and Japan. Just under 100 facilities hold a single elephant.
  15. There is no conservation-education value to the use of elephants in `zoos.
  1. The law has a duty to protect elephants in zoos and in captivity because there are serious welfare concerns.
  2. The way ‘sustainable use’ of wildlife is used in the SADC region is to focus on the species as a whole and allow for the sacrifice of many individuals. This allows individuals to be objectified and exploited rather than respected and well stewarded.
  3. Conservation decisions cannot be divorced from welfare considerations.
  4. An integrative approach needs to be employed in policies and legislation to properly interpret ecological sustainability and the use of natural ‘resources.’ This kind of approach will integrate respect for individuals and the whole species thereby advancing their conservation.
  5. Respect for elephants will ensure their long-term survival.
  6. Policies and legislation must be developed that are good for both humans and elephants.
  7. There are already several projects in Africa that are rehabilitating and reintegrating elephants, including captive elephants, back into the wild. Effective and verified protocols and procedures have been developed. These programmes need to be urgently supported and expanded.
  8. Keeping elephants in captivity and reducing them to mere objects is eroding our own humanity.

9. At the close of the Indaba, each delegate was asked to write down the one closing thought or policy recommendation given the science that had been presented. The overwhelming consensus from panellists and delegates was that:

  1. There is a critical mass of indisputable scientific data and research on who elephants are.
  2. Since humans now know so much about them it can no longer be acceptable to allow elephants to be kept in captivity.
  3. No new elephants should be placed in captivity.
  4. Elephants currently in captivity should be reintegrated into the wild wherever possible or, if not, be placed in as free and natural environment as possible.

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