THE PREN SUBMISSION OF COMMENTS ON THE DRAFT POLICY POSITION FOR SUSTAINABLE USE OF ELEPHANT, LION, LEOPARD AND RHINOCEROS TO THE SOUTH AFRICAN GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY, FISHERIES AND THE ENVIRONMENT

WELL-BEING CONCERNS

The entirely new section 9A in NEM:BA empowers the DFFE Minister to prohibit certain activities “that may negatively impact on the well-being of an animal […]” and create new offences “relating to non-compliance with s9A”.

PREN members remain concerned about the well-being of captive elephants in South Africa, as well as the safety and security of the elephant handlers who are interacting with elephants.
The use of elephants in various activities, such as elephant riding, touching, feeding, walking with elephants, and performing in public, has been a topic of ethical and security concern. Training methods, particularly those involving free contact with humans and the use of tools like bullhooks, can be inhumane, are associated with continuous dominance and control and have raised questions about the well-being of the elephants and the safety of the people involved.

In terms of NEM:BA, PREN members suggest prohibiting the following practices, at any facility

The following practices should specifically be prohibited in any facility:

  1. the use of guides and tools to intentionally puncture, lacerate or inflict harm upon an elephant;
  2. restricting an elephant’s movement for a period of time longer than required to perform a necessary husbandryor veterinary procedure, to restrain elephants in transit or to deal with an emergency;
  3. withholding or restricting food or water;
  4. depriving an elephant of sleep;
  5. inserting any implement into any bodily orifice, unless directed by a veterinarian;
  6. sedating an elephant unnecessarily or repeatedly;
  7. striking any part of the elephant’s body with any object with the intention to cause distress, pain or injury;
  8. withholding of veterinary care for any reason;
  9. isolating an elephant from other elephants in its accustomed social group;
  10. hunting of elephants in captivity;
  11. culling of elephants;
  12. trading of elephants between captive facilities;
  13. using elephants in a free contact setting in the film industry.

PUBLIC OPINION

TripAdvisor implemented an Animal Welfare Policy in 2016 which was updated in 2018. Included in this policy was a guideline not to sell tickets for shows and performances in which animals are forced to perform demeaning tricks or unnatural behaviours.

  • “Tripadvisor will not sell tickets to, or generate revenue from, specific experiences where captive wild or endangered animals are forced to perform demeaning tricks or other unnatural behaviours in front of the general public, or where they are featured as part of a live circus or stage entertainment act in a demeaning manner (including imitating humans, such as dressing up in costume). Demeaning acts are defined as those where an animal may be either drugged or forcibly trained to behave or comply in an unnatural way, and which do not provide either necessary stimulation, exercise or veterinary care to that animal”
  • “Tripadvisor will not sell tickets to, or generate booking revenue from, specific experiences where tourists come into physical contact with captive wild animals unless certain exceptional circumstances apply.”

Public opinion has turned against the unnecessary keeping of animals in captivity and against the training of elephants for display and performance. In addition, the educational value of elephants kept in captivity is minimal and is outweighed by the negative effects on elephant well-being. In addition, there is no conservation value in keeping elephants in captivity.

PHASING OUT ELEPHANTS KEPT IN CAPTIVITY

  1. The national department responsible for the environment must immediately conduct an audit of the captive elephant population in South Africa and compile a complete national register and database of every captive elephant per facility; this should include ID of any distinctive physical traits, markings and microchipping;
  2. national government must keep the national register continuously updated;
  3. no wild-caught elephants may be introduced into captivity, other than temporary captivity, in South Africa,regardless of where they have been captured;
  4. no elephants may be exported from South Africa for the purposes of being held in captivity elsewhere;
  5. where an elephant is an orphaned calf and/or in need of veterinary care, it must be cared for in a registeredrehabilitation facility with the specific aim of reintegrating it into a limited or extensive wildlife system or, wherethat is not in the best interests of the elephant’s well-being, in a registered sanctuary;
  6. no elephants may be trained for commercial exhibition;
  7. rehabilitation facilities and sanctuaries, if such exist, may not allow the commercial exhibition of elephants or anyfree contact between elephants and the public;
  8. no new elephants may be introduced into existing captive facilities unless they are either a registered sanctuaryor a registered rehabilitation facility;
  9. no new captive facilities, apart from sanctuaries and rehabilitation facilities, may be authorised and existingfacilities must be phased out in a way that best protects the well-being of the elephants concerned;
  10. elephants should no longer be part of any exhibition or have any contact with the public;
  11. all breeding of elephants in captive facilities is prohibited;
  12. the owner of every captive facility must as part of the elephant management plan for the facility compile a long-term well-being plan for each of the elephants in the facility including contingency plans for such circumstances as: the death or insolvency of the owner or any other circumstances in which the owner is no longer able to care for the elephant; the closure of the facility for any reason; or the goal of any long-term well-being plan must be: the reintegration of the elephant into a limited or extensive wildlife system, either directly or via an accredited and registered rehabilitation facility.

ELEPHANTS WHO ARE CURRENTLY KEPT IN CAPTIVITY

Elephants currently held in captivity in South Africa should be managed in such a way that their suffering is minimised. This means that their management must be informed by the best available scientific information and must prioritise the elephant’s wellbeing. This includes that:

  1. any additional stress and disturbance to these elephants must be avoided, this must include exposure to human- caused vibrations and construction noise. Several different studies in Africa show how human-generated noises from drums, tins and iron sheets are used as an effective deterrent in human-elephant conflict and crop damage mitigation, confirming that such noises disturb elephants;
  2. existing social groupings must not be disrupted, unless for the well-being of individual elephants;
  3. lactating mother elephants particularly shouldn`t be used in any exhibitions or performances;
  4. the individual characteristics and requirements of elephants must be considered;
  5. elephants held captive must be provided with the best available daily care including the provision of a highstandard of internationally acceptable veterinary care with regular (at least bi-annual) check-ups and treatment as and when it is needed; and
  6. enclosures must be upgraded to minimum required standards for the well-being of elephants held captive, in compliance with findings from scientific research;
  7. threats to the safety of people are minimised.

REHABILITATION FACILITIES AND SANCTUARIES

PREN members stress the necessity to properly define the sanctuary and rehabilitation facilities. To avoid continuous confusion these definitions should be urgently debated and included in policy. Furthermore, such facilities should be licenced through an accreditation system.

NO SPECIFIC REGULATIONS ON THE TRANSPORTATION OF WILDLIFE HAVE BEEN INCLUDED

PREN members note that, despite the mention of trade and exports of live wildlife, this Draft Policy Position did not mention any regulation regarding the transportation of the concerned species – and in particular elephants – for the sake of the well-being and safety of animal and humans. Elephants – and many other species as well – are continuously moved between provinces, mostly for commercial or conservation purposes. Elephants – and other species – are sentient animals who can suffer tremendously and even die during transport; any transportation should be avoided unless strictly regulated with protocols and implemented only for the sake and interest of the elephant or group of elephants. Furthermore, despite the volume of trade in many wild species in South Africa, the transportation of wildlife is currently self-regulated; the DFFE should develop Norms and Standards specifically for the transportation of wildlife to cover all species or groups of species, taking into account and develop internationally agreed guidelines and standards such as those developed by the World Organisation for Animal Health, and the Convention On International Trade in Endangered Species. In addition, the implementation of such norms should be properly monitored and enforced.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. A section on elephants held in captivity should be added to the Draft Policy Position;
  2. The South African government, in line with the outcome of the HLP, the provisions of the White Paper and NEM:BA provisions relating to the well-being of wild animals, should commit to phasing out the commercialkeeping of and trading in elephants.
  3. Species-specific Norms & Standards for the transportation of wildlife should be developed and properlyimplemented/enforced.

©PREN 2023. All Rights Reserved.

page4image15673088