OPEN LETTER ADDRESSED TO: CAPE NATURE
Friday 10th July 2020
Dear Dr Baard,
The Pro Elephant Network is made up of local and international members who embrace the expertise from western academies (including the fields of science, conservation, animal welfare, advocacy, economics, community leadership, writing, the media, social justice and the law) and members from the indigenous paradigm. Our network includes scientists, researchers, academics and specialists with vast experience in the field of nature conservation, ecology, the welfare, wellbeing, rehabilitation and reintegration of Elephants.
- The signing Members of the Pro Elephant Network hereby formally request that CapeNature rejects applications for the permits relative to the introduction of Elephants (and other large herbivores) to the area known as Lamloch Farm in Kleinmond, Western Cape in South Africa.
- We do not believe that the negative impact of translocating and keeping Elephants on the property with consequences which include, but which are not limited to, the impacts on vegetation and delicate ecosystem of this biosphere and the impact on the Elephants themselves have been satisfactorily assessed.
- Whilst it is our understanding that an Elephant Management Plan has been approved for the property by yourselves, presumably as part of the developer’s application for approval under the Threatened or Protected Species Regulations, 2007 and/or the Western Cape Nature Conservation Ordinance, our members at their request have not been privy to such a plan.
- The lack of transparency is in contradiction to the South African National Development Plan 2030 which emphasizes the role of transparency in creating an accountable, open and responsive public service, including access to information and administrative justice. Transparency is an important element of public accountability. Section 32 of the Constitution enshrines the right of access to information. The Batho Pele principles state that government administration must be open and transparent.
- To state that the monitoring of the impact on the environment can be simply carried out after the introduction of the Elephants to the Lamloch Farm in Kleinmond is irresponsible. We believe, such studies must be concluded before permission is granted for the Elephants to be relocated to this area. This approach would also be contrary to the precautionary principle which is central to the environmental impact assessment process.
- Section 2 of NEMA sets out the principles which must be taken into account by an organ of state when making a decision that may significantly affect the environment.
Section 2(3) of the NEMA requires that a development must be ecologically sustainable. Sustainable development requires the consideration of relevant factors including that “a risk- averse and cautious approach is applied, which takes into account the limits of current knowledge about the consequences of decisions and actions.” In terms of this principle, it is not acceptable simply to experiment with the Elephants as seems to be the approach taken. It is not a simple matter to move Elephants off the property if their effects on the vegetation are found to be harmful. It is also not clear whether, if that was to occur, the development would still be financially viable.
- We strongly advise CapeNature to consider the effect of the proposed development on the existing fauna such as the wild horses, rooikat, leopard and other small animals. Of big concern is the Microbatrachella Capensis (Micro Frog), one of the smallest and most endangered amphibians in South Africa occurring only in areas between Cape Aghulas and Betty’s Bay, including the proposed area. The development includes not only the construction of buildings and infrastructure but also the erection of electrified game fences, enclosures and holding pens. We have received images of a fence constructed over large wetland areas. It is inconceivable that these constructions will have no impact on existing fauna.
- The proposal to relocate eight Elephants, apparently includes the five Elephants who were among the infamous Tuli Elephants. These Elephants were removed in 1998 from Botswana and relocated to South Africa. The treatment of these Elephants formed part of an expose brought about by the NSPCA and the television program Carte Blanche. The expose led to a court case, the developer of the Lamloch Farm property was himself embroiled in this court matter.
- Whilst it will be irresponsible to relocate these Elephants to the Overberg area which is alien to them and will constitute further separation trauma, Cape Nature cannot disregard or underestimate the negative media backlash should such permission be granted.
- In a recent decision, the Constitutional Court of South Africa has held that: “[a]nimal welfare is connected with the constitutional right to have the environment protected…through legislative and other means”. This integrative approach correctly links the suffering of individual animals to conservation and illustrates the extent to which showing respect and concern for individual animals reinforces broader environmental protection efforts. Animal welfare and animal conservation together reflect two intertwined values.” The welfare of the Elephants which form part of the proposed development of Lamloch has not been assessed.
- The welfare of the Elephants and the conditions in which they are kept is also relevant from socio-economic perspective. Elephants are an iconic species. International public opinion is turning away from wildlife tourism based on interactions with wild animals and the taming of wild animals. So-called “sanctuaries” which are in fact just commercial exploitation of captive animals are increasingly treated with suspicion.
- The signing Members of the Pro Elephant Network are concerned that the developer has stated that the Elephants will be housed ‘in electrified enclosures at night and all excursions into the park will be conducted by experienced elephant handlers’. The Animal Protection Act (APA), no 71 of 1962, Section 2, which includes any domestic or wild animals, considers it an “offence in respect of all animals’ to”(m) – “confine, chain, tether or secure any animal unnecessarily” or
(i) – “under such conditions or in such a manner or position as to cause that animal unnecessary suffering”.
- The keeping of Elephants in confinement with ‘handler’ is increasingly ethically frowned upon and, in all likelihood, prohibited by the APA. With the rise of ethical tourism – and the boycotting of irresponsible behaviour – the economic viability of the proposed elephant-holding activity is highly questionable. As has been observed with elements of the captive predator breeding industry in South Africa, the reputational damage to Brand South Africa may be significant. Violation of animal welfare is almost always economically destructive and therefore unsustainable in the long run.
- The keeping of a threatened or protected species – under the TOPS regulations – requires a permit if there is to be any ‘exercising physical control over [those animals]’ and ‘conveying, moving or translocating [such animals].’ The PABA report notes that the application process for possessing Elephants is being dealt with in a separate process to this one. Nonetheless, it is not clear how it is legally, economically or ecologically justified under any circumstances in the context of this application.
- Aside from the welfare concerns articulated above, Elephants are not endemic to the Overberg region. As such, their proposed introduction should not be considered by CapeNature, the issuing authority. The fynbos biodiversity loss in this area is already subject to climate change.
- Any proposed tourism development on the Lamloch Farm property should be entirely congruent with the preservation of irreplaceable biodiversity. While the removal of alien vegetation is to be lauded, the introduction of Elephants under ethically and ecologically dubious conditions should be avoided under any sensible framework of analysis employed by environmental economists.
17. The economic value of utilisation of Elephants in captivity in the tourist industry is the primary motivation as mapped out in the PABA report about the proposed development at Lamloch Farm. ‘The visitor will experience and observe Elephants “in the wild” as they graze, browse and interact with other Elephants, as well as the other game species… [The Elephants], previously captive… now given the opportunity to be free-ranging within the proposed camps’ (p. 33). This is tantamount to marketing the development on a false pretext. Again, ethical compromise will invariably have a negative economic and ecological impact on the Western Cape’s tourism reputation, the value of which is likely to exceed whatever revenue is likely to be generated by Elephant Ventures Africa CC.
18. This open letter refers also to the National Norms and Standards for the Management of Elephants in South Africa; it refers to some of the many formal objections previously submitted during the consultation process and after, raising multiple unresolved issues.
This letter is endorsed by the following esteemed Members of the Pro Elephant Network:
Owais Awan – Environmental Lawyer – Islamabad, Pakistan
Suparna Baksi-Ganguly – President and Co-Founder, Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre – Bangalore, India
Dr Brett Bard – Veterinarian – South Africa
Dr Jessica Bell Rizzolo – Postdoctoral Researcher, The Conservation Criminology Lab, Department Fisheries and Wildlife – Michigan State University, USA
Professor David Bilchitz – Director, South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Public and Human Rights and International Law – South Africa
Dr Gay Bradshaw Director – Kerulos Centre for Nonviolence – USA
Megan Carr – Vice President Global March for Elephants and Rhinos Organisation – South Africa
Lenin Chisaira – Founder, Advocates 4 Earth Green Law Connect – Zimbabwe
Anna Centura – Co Founder Future 4 Wildlife – Europe
Dr Betsy Coville – Wildlife Veterinarian – USA
Harvey Croze – Collaborating Researcher – Amboseli Trust for Elephants – Kenya
Nomusa Dube – Founder Zimbabwe Elephant Foundation – Zimbabwe
Stefania Falcon – Co Founder Future 4 Wildlife, South Africa
Michele Franko – Senior Research Associate Elephant Care and Wellbeing at the Kerulos Centre for Nonviolence – USA
Chief Stephen Fritz – The First Nation Members of the South Peninsula Customary Khoisan Council – South Africa
Johanna Hamburger – Wildlife Attorney Animal Welfare Institute – USA
Rachel Harris – Managing Director – Elephant Human Relationship Aid – Namibia
Alok Hissarwala Gupta – Elephant Specialist Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations – India
Iris Ho – Senior Wildlife Specialist Humane Society International – USA
Peter Hodgskin – Founder Hands-Off Fernkloof, South Africa
Lynne James – Committee Member Mutare SPCA – Zimbabwe
Dr Paula Kahumbu – Founder CEO Wildlife Direct, Kenya
Nuria Maldonado – Ecologist, Environmental Science, Max Plank Institute, Germany
Jim Karani – Advocate Lawyers for Animal Protection in Africa in Africa, Kenya
Dr Winnie Kiru – Founder, Conservation Kenya – Kenya
Rob Laidlaw – Executive Director Zoocheck – Canada
Kahindi Lekalhaile – Africa Network for Animal Welfare, Kenya
Dr Smargda Louw – Director Ban Animal Trading – South Africa
Giorgio Lombardi – Warden Vogelgat Nature Reserve, South Africa
Linda Masudze – Advocate 4 Earth, Zimbabwe
Varda Mehrotra – Executive Director Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations – India
Mary Morrison – Advocate WildlifeDirect – Kenya
Sharon Pincott – Elephant Behavioural Specialist – ex-Hwange, Zimbabwe
Michele Pickover – Director EMS Foundation – South Africa
Dr Yolanda Pretorius – SA Wildlife College, Elephant Behavioural Specialist, South Africa
Ingo Schmidinger – Elephant Husbandry and Rehabilitation Four Paws, Germany
Dr Jan Schmidt-Burbach – Veterinarian, Head of Wildlife Research and Animal Welfare World Animal Protection International – Asia
Dr DJ Schubert – Wildlife Biologist Animal Welfare Institute – USA
Antoinette van de Water – Director Bring the Elephant Home – South Africa
Professor Dan Wylie – Rhodes University – South Africa
Julie Woodyer – Elephant Captivity Zoocheck – Canada
IMAGE CREDIT: TripAdvisor – The Elephant Sanctuary Hartebeespoort Dam, South Africa (part of The Elephant Sanctuary Group) image supplied by Monica Carvalho in 2019
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