CITES CoP19 STATEMENT IN FAVOUR OF RESOLUTIONS TO PREVENT THE EXPORT OF WILD ELEPHANTS INTO CAPTIVITY

CITES CoP19

ENDORSED STATEMENT IN FAVOUR OF RESOLUTIONS TO PREVENT THE EXPORT OF WILD ELEPHANTS TO ZOOS AND CAPTIVITY

PROPOSAL 5: TRANSFER THE ELEPHANT POPULATIONS OF BOTSWANA, NAMIBIA, SOUTH AFRICA, AND ZIMBABWE FROM APPENDIX II TO APPENDIX I

PROPOSAL 66.4.1: RESTRICT WILD-CAUGHT LIVE EXPORTS TO IN-SITU CONSERVATION PROGRAMMES IN NATURAL AND HISTORICAL RANGES IN AFRICA

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild animals and plants has 184 signatory Parties−any one of the Parties is entitled to submit a proposal to the Conference. The meeting of the CITES Conference of the Parties is the ultimate decision-making body.

The 19th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP)is taking place from the 14th to the 25th of November 2022 in Panama City. Decisions taken at this CoP will continue to shape the international trade in wildlife.

The CITES Secretariat received a proposal, CoP19 Prop. 5, for consideration for the amendment of Appendices I and II, specifically to transfer the Loxodonta Africana populations of Botswana, Namibia, South and Zimbabwe from Appendix II to Appendix I. The proposal was made by members of the African Elephant Coalition namely, Burkina Faso, Equatorial Guinea, Mali, and Senegal.

This proposal, if accepted would result in the prohibition of international trade for primarily commercial purposes in African elephant specimens of wild origin, including from the four range States concerned. States Parties will make their own decisions next month in Panama City at CoP19 about whether this proposal should be adopted or rejected.

“Amending the CITES Appendices is a rigorous, science-based process that demands a wide range of expertise. The stakes are high both for these vulnerable species of plants and animals and for the people whose livelihoods depend upon them. We should also consider that Parties have legally binding obligations towards all species included in the CITES Appendices. It is vital that our decisions be as well- informed and wise as possible” CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero

Any species that appears on Appendix I is effectively banned from commercial international trade. Appendix II species can be traded but that trade is strictly regulated and subject to tight controls from both the exporting and importing Parties.

Despite this, wild elephants were captured in Namibia in February 2022 and exported from Namibia to Al Ain Zoo and Sharjah Safari Park in the United Arab Emirates. The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria has terminated the membership of the Al Ain Zoo in the UAE as a result of the evidence of their investigations related to the multiple breaches of EAZA Codes and Standards which has negatively impacted the reputation of the organization (see Appendix 1). EAZA reiterated its condemnation of the import of the Namibian elephants and will not be drawn into an alternative proposal that may be used to justify the importation of wild elephants into a zoo.

The Pro Elephant Network has supported the further expansive investigations and exposure of the recent and ongoing Namibian wild elephant export debacle.

https://www.thenationalnews.com/uae/environment/2022/10/12/sharjah-ruler-watches-elephants-during-safari-tour/

The Pro Elephant Network remains extremely concerned about the SADC (Southern African Development Community) member’s misinterpretation of current CITES regulations, specifically the export of African elephants outside of their natural range states, a topic that was raised and discussed at the CITES Standing Committee Meeting in Lyon on the 9th of March 2022.

We, the undersigned, respectfully request Parties to CITES to support the proposal of Burkina Faso, Equatorial Guinea, Mali, and Senegal to amend Appendices I and II, specifically to transfer the Loxodonta Africana populations of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe from Appendix II to Appendix I.

We furthermore urge the Parties to support the proposed changes to Resolution Conf. 10.10 (Rev. CoP18) as detailed in CoP19 Doc. 66.4.1 which would restrict wild-caught live exports to in situ conservation programs or secure areas in the wild, within the species’ natural and historical range in Africa, and would apply to all wild African elephants wherever they are located.

MUKUNDAN

OPEN LETTER OF CONCERN FOR THE WELFARE OF ELEPHANT MUKUNDAN AT PUNNATHURKOTTA IN KOTTAPADI, SITUATED NEAR THE GURUVAYOOR SREE KRISHNA TEMPLE IN THE THRISSUR DISTRICT OF KERALA STATE IN SOUTH INDIA

The Members of the Pro Elephant Network have sent an urgent letter of concern about the deteriorating health of Mukundan, one of forty-four elephants living at Punnathurkotta, a centre for captive elephants, located in Kottapadi, about 3km from the Guruvayoor Sree Krishna Temple, in Thrissur District of Kerala State in South India.

Read the Pro Elephant Network Letter Full Letter Here:

08 September 2022

Dear Ms Laiju Mol,  

URGENT OPEN LETTER OF CONCERN FOR THE WELFARE OF ELEPHANT MUKUNDAN AT PUNNATHUR KOTTA, GURUYAYUR


The Pro Elephant Network (PREN) consists of an international community of diverse individuals and organizations, comprising specific expertise, on wild and captive African and Asian Elephants, including the fields of science, health, conservation, welfare, economics, community leadership, social justice and the law.  

We would like to congratulate you as the first woman manager to take charge of the Punnathur Kotta, in Guruvayur temple. We hope that you bring a renewed vision and fairness to the pressing issue of captive Elephant welfare and wish you the best. 

We are writing with great concern about the deteriorating health of Elephant Mukundan, one of the forty-four Elephants currently housed at the Punnathur Kotta. 

A recent video of him walking with great difficulty, with multiple chains hanging down his swollen and deformed ankles, and in visible pain has been shared with us by concerned citizens from Kerala. It appears that the untreated fracture in his left hind leg is now completely twisted and ankylosed. 

As you might be aware, Mukundan was gifted to the temple in 1986 at the young age of six, which means that he has spent close to four decades working in chains in the Kotta. 

The untreated fracture and the subsequent ankyloses were initially highlighted in the 2014 Animal Welfare Board of India Report, where it was noted that “due to severe torture by application of iron objects the left leg has internal and external injuries”. The veterinary assessment in the same report recorded that there was an abscess at the left elbow. 

This chronically disabled Elephant is obviously finding it very difficult and painful to walk. His whole anatomy has become abnormal, due to compensation, which relates to the old fracture. He should be immediately retired into a sanctuary where he could at least move around at will and strengthen his atrophied muscles. 

The 2014 AWBI report is a detailed, scientific official record of the very poor conditions and management of elephants who are kept in the Punnathur Kotta. The report highlights the fact that almost fifty Elephants are kept in a wholly inadequate, eleven-acre facility, where they are offered little or no exercise, inadequate shelters, excessive tethering and no opportunity for freedom or socialisation.

The Hindu, a widely respected national Indian newspaper, affirmed the findings of the report, in April 2015, stating:

“The report shows that all the Elephants at the Punnathur Kotta sanctuary are chained with absolutely no exercise. Often, these chains cut into the skin or become embedded in the flesh and have to be surgically removed. The animals are in complete solitude for about 23 hours; some are chained by one hind and one fore leg, while for others it is the hind legs and one fore leg.”[1]

Furthermore, we are concerned that Mukundan is, kept chained 24 hours a day/seven days a week, forced to stand on a hard cement pavement, without any respite or relief. There is no justification for keeping him in such strict confinement while he is barely capable of walking.   

India’s Central Zoo Authority (CZA) has suggested a minimum of two-acre space per captive elephant. However, the forty-four elephants, mostly bulls, are crammed into an eleven-acre land. Males come into their annual musth cycle around the same time. The testosterone levels rise steeply making them more aggressive; all attempts to manage males through isolation, separation and confinement, impact their welfare.[2]

Elephants are highly cognitive and can demonstrate empathy and self-recognition, and display concern for other distressed and dying Elephants. Their cultural learnings are passed through their generations.[3] They are highly sentient beings and require opportunities for individual autonomy and socialization. When these essential needs cannot be met, health deterioration and stereotypy generally reflect the welfare-compromised environment and stereotypic behaviour remains the most widely used welfare indicator for elephants.[4] Stereotypy, the invariant restrictive and purposeless repetition of motor patterns,[5] is in fact commonly seen in captive Elephants that are held in impoverished conditions. Exposure to psychological stress has direct physiological consequences that impact the body’s ability to function.[6] This includes neural disfunctions, brain damage[7] and premature death.[8]

A ‘Sanctuary’ is defined as an area where animals live in their habitats with no interference. The key requirement of a sanctuary is that the animals are free and can exercise some form of autonomy. Unfortunately, at Punnathur Kotta the chained Elephants are not offered the same opportunities. 

Elephants are a National Heritage, Schedule 1 animal in India, which entitles them to the highest degree of protection, even when in captivity. 

We share with you the admiration and love for Elephants as majestic and wonderful creatures, who deserve our utmost respect, protection and care when needed. 

Considering all the above,            

  1. As a matter of urgency, we request you to allow a team of independent experts to examine Mukundan, provide him with urgent medical care and treatment and develop a plan for his long-term rehabilitation.
  2. We advise that the Guruvayoor temple urgently implements the 2014 AWBI report recommendations. 
  3. We also request the temple management to open its doors for independent scrutiny of all improvements at the Kota in the last eight years, as per the report attached to this letter.

We, as a global network of Elephant experts, would like to extend our support to achieve the best solutions. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us. 

WORLD ELEPHANT DAY 2022

Charlie, at the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria South Africa / ©EMS Foundation

ON Friday 12th August 2022 we once again observe World Elephant Day.  It is the tenth year that organizations and individuals will rally together to give a united voice to elephants.  Founded by Patricia Sims, this collective global movement continues to be acknowledged by the members of the Pro Elephant Network (PREN) 

Members of PREN specifically advocate reversing the exploitation of elephants through the culture of imprisonment, captive breeding, capture, kidnapping, abuse, exhibition, trading and killing.  

Even though there is a critical mass and ever-growing volume of scientific evidence emphasizing the problems and negative aspects that are associated with keeping elephants in captivity, there are many elephants who continue to suffer this cruel fate. 

On World Elephant Day the members of PREN are drawing attention to some examples of elephants whose current captivity continues to capture the world’s attention and focus in 2022. 

The legal fight to free Happy the elephant continues in New York, in the United States of America.  On the 14th of July 2022, the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) filed a motion to re-argue the 5 – 2 decision by New York’s highest court issued in June 2022, in a landmark case that seeks Happy’s right to liberty and release from the Bronx Zoo and her relocation to an elephant sanctuary.

The New York Court of Appeals is one of the most highly-regarded state appellate courts in the country and two of its justices dissented from the judgement with separate opinions.  Justice Rowan D. Wilson wrote, “When the majority answers, ‘No, animals cannot have rights,’ I worry for that animal, but I worry even more greatly about how that answer denies and denigrates the human capacity for understanding, empathy and compassion” and the court had a duty “to recognize Happy’s right to petition for her liberty not just because she is a wild animal who is not meant to be caged and displayed, but because the rights we confer on others define who we are as a society.”

Judge Jenny Rivera  wrote in her dissent that “a gilded cage is still a cage. Happy may be a dignified creature, but there is nothing dignified about her captivity” and that Happy’s captivity was unjust and that “every day she remains a captive — a spectacle for humans — we, too, are diminished.”

“The New York Court of Appeals […] has created instability and confusion in New York law with grave implications for illegally confined human beings”, the NhRP writes in its motion.  If the re-argument motion is granted, the Court may order another hearing and will issue a decision explaining why it will either reverse or clarify its prior decision. 

Happy at the Bronx Zoo Image Credit: Julie Larsen Maher/Wildlife Conservation Society

The plight of Shankar, an African male elephant from Zimbabwe, currently living in Delhi Zoo, continues.  The Delhi High Court is presently hearing a case which was filed by sixteen-year-old Nikita Dhawan, the founder of Youth for Animals, to free Shankar.  

On 6thJuly 2022, the court ruled out the possibility of sending him back to Africa. Instead, it ordered the Central Zoo Authority and the Animal Welfare Board of India to inspect his living conditions and submit a detailed report, before the 31st of August 2022 – the date when the case will be heard next. Solitary, Shankar has been seen chained and beaten in the Delhi Zoo.  

The Aspinall Foundation has offered to rehabilitate Shankar in a suitable location in Africa at their cost, but sadly the Delhi High Court has rather asked the authorities to explore the possibility of bringing in a female partner for Shankar.  “We will not permit the release of Shankar, we will keep it in India and take care of him here only.  He is ours.  We will look after him properly, don’t worry” the court said. 

Shankar at the Delhi Zoo Image Credit: Nikita Dhawan / Youth for Animals

SOUTH AFRICAN NATIONAL BIODIVERSITY INSTITUTE ANNOUNCES THE DECISION TO RETIRE CHARLIE THE ELEPHANT FROM THE PRETORIA ZOO

The Members of the Pro Elephant Network have supported the EMS Foundation during their nineteenth month transparent process of negotiation with Minister Barbara Creecy and representatives from the South African National Biodiversity Institute with regards to seeking the best possible future options for Charlie, the solitary bull elephant at the Pretoria zoo in South Africa.

We highly commend the forward thinking decision of Minister Creecy and SANBI to retire Charlie from the Pretoria zoo, a decision which was announced today, 29th of July 2022.

We will continue to offer our extensive expertise during this ongoing process, in order to make sure that all the correct decisions are reached for Charlie.

Image Credit: EMS Foundation November 2021

©Pro Elephant Network 2022. All Rights Reserved.

LETTER OF CONCERN FOR THE WELFARE OF THE ELEPHANTS IN KERALA

COPY OF AN OPEN LETTER ADDRESSED TO:

THE MINISTER OF ENVIRONMENT, FOREST AND CLIMATE CHANGE, THE CHAIRMAN OF THE STANDING COMMITTEE ENVIRONMENT AND FORESTS, THE INSPECTOR GENERAL OF FORESTS – PROJECT ELEPHANT, SENIOR REPRESENTATIVE OF THE KERALA HIGH COURT

DATED: 9TH OF MAY 2022

LETTER OF CONCERN FOR THE WELFARE OF THE ELEPHANTS IN KERALA IN INDIA

The Pro Elephant Network (PREN) consists of an international community of diverse individuals and organizations, comprising specific expertise, on wild and captive African and Asian Elephants, including the fields of science, health, conservation, welfare, economics, community leadership, social justice and the law.  

The Members of PREN are concerned about the numerous reported deaths of captive Elephants in Kerala. 


Since December 2018, 77 Elephants have died, and at least six since the beginning of this year. The cruel treatment of some of Kerala’s Elephants has been exposed internationally on numerous social media channels. 

Credit: Instagram Kerala Elephant Cruelty @elephantcruelty 

Damning Documentaries have exposed the cruelty shown towards Elephants in religious institutions including the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Guruvayur Temple which is called the “Guruvayur Captive Elephant Sanctuary ” and  “Punathoor Kotta”,  where 45 Elephants, mostly bulls, are permanently kept chained in their own urine and excrements. In an interview with award winning filmmaker Sangita Iyer, renown Spiritual Leader Swami Bhoomananda Theertha describes how Elephants’ feet are set on fire to bring them under control, how handlers throw stones at bulls’ genitals and how these herbivores are purposefully and maliciously fed meat. 

Reports in the media confirmed, that a submission on 6th April 2022, by Honourable Member of Parliament Suresh Gopi requested that the Central Government consider according “Domesticated Animal” Status to Elephants who are held in captivity. The undersigned Members of PREN acknowledge and appreciate the Government’s current policy is that Elephants are intrinsically wild and that there should be not alteration made to this categorisation or associated terminology when referring to Elephants.


Numerous studies[1] and reports indicate that the domestication of wild animals by humans is a socio-biological process which takes thousands of years and involves changes in genealogy. Throughout the 3,000-year history of Human–Elephant relationships, most Elephants utilised by humans have been captured from the wild. Almost all captive Elephants in India are wild caught because Indian Elephants do not breed easily in captivity. 

Elephants used for temple and other religious processions in Kerala, even though they are legally identified as “captive” animals, are indeed biologically wild. Wild Elephants remain victims of the unacceptable practice of violent and traumatic training in their early years, to ensure these majestic animals are subjugated under the control of the Mahout through the medium of fear. The fear is induced through pain, food deprivation and by causing deep psychological damage.[2]

The hidden reality of Elephants in captivity is contrary to the protection guaranteed by Indian law which protects Elephants as a National Heritage Animal, elevated to Schedule-I status under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. This protection applies to all Elephants, wild and those held captive. 

Many Elephants in Kerala are kept permanently chained in the backyards of owners and temples, forced to stand on hard concrete or granite floors, most often with no roof to protect them from the weather. They are deprived of adequate food, water, and any positive physical or mental stimulus.[3] In addition, Elephants are forced to stand on their own urine and excrement and in unhygienic conditions, leading to foot rot and deadly diseases such as tuberculosis. Research indicates that frequent, close contact within confined spaces leads to a two-way transmission between Elephants and humans and a high seroprevalence in these animals and their handlers.


Given the complex brain of Elephants,[4] advanced cognitive abilities, suite of emotional responses and physical expressiveness in a socially embedded life-style, it should not come as a surprise that the denial of natural conditions would lead to physical and psychological trauma and abnormal behaviour, including aggression.[5] In addition, recent research suggests that the impoverished environment provided for these animals has detrimental effects on the brain itself.[6]  

Stereotypy, the invariant restrictive and apparently purposeless repetition of motor patterns,[7] is commonly seen in captive Elephants held in impoverished conditions. Exposure to psychological stress, has direct physiological consequences that impact the body’s ability to function.[8] This includes neural disfunctions, brain damage[9] and premature death.[10]


There is overwhelming scientific evidence that Elephants thrive in tight-knit herds and cultures of their own.[11] In the wild, they create tools, use their massive bodies and physical organs constantly to gather food, graze, socialize[12] and mate.[13]

Elephants have evolved to move across vast areas, in order to meet their nutritional needs;[14]  they consume between 200-250 variety of barks, berries, fruits, leaves, roots, herbs, shrubs, grass and even extract minerals from soil. All of these activities keep them physically, mentally and emotionally engaged. It is known that these highly empathetic animals[15], once torn from their families andsubjected to violence and confinement suffer from severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).[16]

   Arjunan collapsed and died – Photo Credit: Venkitachalam

On April 20, 2022, the Forest and Wildlife Department has again opened the registrar to include new Elephants to be used for parades, Annexure I. This seems to be in contempt of India’s Supreme Court Order dated 18 August 2015, which had finalised the 30thSeptember 2015 as the last deadline for registrations. This further extension questions the validity of the law and exposes the continued trade and transport of Elephants from the wild into captivity in Kerala

While the Central Government has clearly specified in the latest Amendment Bill of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 that “[..] any transfer or transport of an existing captive Elephant for a religious institution may be conducted by a person having a valid certificate of ownership, according to the Elephant data submitted by the forest department before the Supreme Court in 2018, there were 521 captive Elephants in the state. To date that number is 444 Elephants, of which only 19 Elephants have proper documents of ownershipand another 13 Elephants are in the custody of the forest department. 

The Elephants used in these parades are often transported in precarious and unregulated conditions. In March 2022,  an incident involving a truck carrying a bull Elephant crashed into another truck. We are not aware of any investigation following the incident. 

An Elephant standing behind a damaged truck after collision – Photo credit: VK Venkitachalam

Elephants are paraded during excessive heatwaves and can collapse.  They are deprived of food, water, and adequate shelter. They are provoked or beaten with illegal weapons to bring them under control, such as spiked chains and capture belts, utilised to inflict maximum pain and suffering.  

PREN Members have supported the submission from the Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre (WRRC).  

MINISTRY CREECY INVITES PREN ELEPHANT EXPERTS TO ACCESS CHARLIE THE ELEPHANT AT THE PRETORIA ZOO

27th April 2022

FORMAL ANNOUNCEMENT

CHARLIE, THE ELEPHANT AT THE PRETORIA ZOO

The Members of the Pro Elephant Network wish to publicly confirm that on Friday 21st April 2022 they received a formal invitation from Barbara Creecy, the Minister for Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment to assemble a team of Elephant experts to assess the mental and physical health and well-being of Charlie the Elephant living at the Pretoria Zoo in South Africa.

Minister Creecy has, furthermore, given the assurance that she has provided the Chairperson of the South African Biodiversity Institute the authority to provide access to Charlie.

The Members of PREN wish to publicly express their gratitude to Minister Creecy for supporting their initiative to provide Charlie the opportunity of the best available expertise.

Arrangements are currently underway to assemble a team with the appropriate competencies to carry out this complex evaluation.

Stefania Falcon
PREN Coordinator 

Image Credit: EMS Foundation November 2021

©The Pro Elephant Network 2022. All Rights Reserved.

PREN ENDORSES THE PUBLIC STATEMENT OF CONCERN FOR CHARLIE AT THE PRETORIA ZOO

13th April 2022

The Co-ordinator of PREN has, today, addressed an open letter to the Honourable Minister, Barbara Creecy of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, the letter was also addressed to the Chief Executive Officer of the South African National Biodiversity Institute and the letter was addressed to the Executive Director of the National Zoological Gardens.

COPY OF THE OPEN LETTER:

ENDORSEMENT OF THE EMS FOUNDATION PUBLIC STATEMENT OF CONCERN FOR CHARLIE AT THE PRETORIA ZOO

The Pro Elephant Network (PREN) as an international community of diverse individuals and organizations, comprising specific expertise, on wild and captive African and Asian elephants, including the fields of science, health, conservation, welfare, economics, community leadership, social justice and the law, has been respectively engaging with the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment and meeting with SANBI, since December 2020. 

On the 16th December 2020 members of PREN alerted the Honourable Minister to their concerns regarding the mental and physical well-being and welfare of Charlie, the bull elephant at the Pretoria Zoo. 

PREN members have subsequently repeatedly requested that Charlie undergo an assessment by independent, renown elephant experts and, if the results of the assessments are in favour, that he be allowed to follow a rehabilitation program for reintegration in a more suitable natural environment, in collaboration with the Zoo and the EMS Foundation, a Member of PREN. 

We are aware of the arduous and fruitless engagement process that took place between the EMS Foundation and SANBI representatives during 2021.  

PREN fully endorses the actions of the EMS Foundation which includes the public statement of the 7th of April  2022. 

PREN hereby formally requests once again that the South African Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment and SANBI, grant access to Charlie in order for an urgent, independent veterinary and behavioural assessment to be carried out.  

We remain concerned for Charlie’s physical and mental well-being.  

The following Pro Elephant Network Members signed in support of this open letter:

Owais Awan                              Advocate High Court, Islamabad

Suparna Baksi-Ganguly              President and Co-Founder, Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation Center, Bangalore, India

Dr Brett Bard                             Veterinarian, South Africa 

Dr Jessica Bell Rizzolo               Postdoctoral Researcher, the Conservation Criminology Lab, Dep of Fisheries and  Wildlife, Michigan State University

Janey Clegg                              Committee Member, SPCA Mutare, Zimbabwe

Professor David Bilchitz             Director, South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Public and Human Rights and International Law – South Africa 

Megan Carr                               Founder, Rhinos in Africa  

Lenin Chisaira                           Founder, Advocates 4 Earth – Green Law Connect, Zimbabwe

Dr Betsy Coville                          Exotic / Wildlife Animal Veterinarian 

Dr Harvey Croze                        DPhil (Oxon) Collaborating Researcher – Amboseli Trust for Elephants – Kenya 

Nomusa Dube                           Founder, Zimbabwe Elephant Foundation

David Ebert                               Advocate, Founder Director of The Animal Defense Partnership – USA

Stefania Falcon                         Co-Founder, Future 4 Wildlife – South Africa 

Daniela Freyer                           Co-Founder, Pro Wildlife, Germany

Michele Franko                          Captive Elephant Caregiver and Advocate – USA

Chief Stephen Fritz                    Indigenous Leader, South Peninsula Khoi Council – South Africa 

Dr Toni Frohoff                          Ethologist and Behavioral Biologist, Founder of TerraMar Research  

Dr Marion E. Garai                     Elephant Behaviour Specialist – South Africa 

Dr Ross Harvey                         Environmental Economist, Botswana   

Heike Henderson-Altenstein       Director, Future for Elephants e.V. 

Alok Hisarwala Gupta                 Lawyer, Animal Law – India 

Iris Ho                                       Head of Policy – Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA)

Peter Hodgskin                          Founder, Hands-off Fernkloof, South Africa 

Sangita Iyer                               B.Sc., M.A., Founder of Voice for Asian Elephants Society, Nat Geo Explorer and  Wildlife Filmmaker

Lynne James                             Independent, Elephant Conservation,  Zimbabwe

Dr Mark Jones                           Veterinarian, Born Free Foundation – UK

David Kabambo                         Founder Director of Peace for Conservation – Wildlife Management – Tanzania

Dr Paula Kahumbu                    WildlifeDirect, Kenya  

Professor Mohan Kharel             Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal

Nuria Maldonado                       Ecologist, Environmental Science, Max Plank Institute

Jim Karani                                 Advocate, Lawyers for Animal Protection in Africa – Kenya 

Dr Winnie Kiiru                          Founder, Conservation Kenya

Brigitte Kornetzky                      President and Founder of Elefanten in Not  – Switzerland / India 

Professor Bob Jacobs                Neuroscience Researcher – Colorado College – USA

Kahindi Lekalhaile                      Africa Network for Animal Welfare, Kenya 

Dr Smaragda Louw                    Director, Ban Animal Trading, South Africa 

Dr Keith Lindsay                        Conservation Biologist, Amboseli Trust for Elephants – Kenya; Fondation Franz Weber

Giorgio Lombardi                       Warden Vogelgat Private Nature Reserve, South Africa 

Linda Masudze                          Advocate 4 Earth, Zimbabwe 

Varda Mehrotra                         Environmentalist, Climate Crisis Researcher – India  

Dr Nurzhafarina Binti Othman     Founder: Seratu Aatai, Elephant Conservation and Research Coordinator at HUTAN-KOCP  – Malaysia 

Sharon Pincott                           Elephant Behavioural Specialist, ex-Hwange, Zimbabwe  

Bharati Ramachandran              CEO of the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations – India

Ian Redmond OBE                     Founder, African Ele-Fund and Elefriends Campaign, Chairman of Ape Alliance and Co-founder of Rebalance Earth  

Ingo Schmidinger                       Elephant Husbandry – Co-Founder iScapes 

Dr Jan Schmidt-Burbach            Veterinarian, Head of Wildlife Research and Animal Welfare, World Animal Protection International

Dr DJ Schubert                          Wildlife Biologist, Animal Welfare Institute – USA 

Dr Liz Tyson                              Animal Welfare Law, Programs Director  – Born Free USA 

Antoinette Van de Water            Director, Bring the Elephant Home, South Africa  

Vasanthi Vadi                            Trustee of the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations – India 

Prof Dan Wylie                          Rhodes University, South Africa 

Image Credit: EMS Foundation November 2021

©The Pro Elephant Network 2022. All Rights Reserved.

The African Elephant Coalition Information Document

At CoP14 in 2007 a coalition of West, Central and East African countries joined forces to support a combined Kenya and Mali proposal for a twenty-year moratorium on the ivory trade.  

In February 2008 nineteen national representatives met in Mali to plan for the implementation of CoP14 Elephant decisions.  The Parties present agreed to the Bamako Declaration to formalise the African Elephant Coalition which so declared:

The coalition will strive to have a viable and healthy elephant population free of threats from the international ivory trade.  Parties to the coalition will also develop an elephant action plan that will encompass national and regional elephant strategies that promote non consumptive use of elephants through development of ecotourism for the benefit of local communities. 

Members include: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Cote d’ Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrae, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, Liberia, Southern Sudan, Rwanda, Uganda and Mauiatania is a member as non-range state. 

The composition of the African Elephant Coalition includes high-level government officials from national wildlife management authorities and technical and scientific representatives from civil society, with small secretariats in each member state.  The Coalition is therefore a powerful lobbying voice at CITES Conference of the Parties CoP meetings. 

The African Elephant Coalition has always expressed its deep concern about the crisis facing elephants and its conviction that a ban on international and domestic trade in ivory is the best way to protect elephants.

SOLUTIONS FOR ELY THE ELEPHANT AT SAN JUAN DE ARAGON ZOO

COPY OF AN OPEN LETTER ADDRESSED TO:

The Director of the San Juan De Aragon Zoo, The Secretary of the Environmental Department Jefa de Gobierno

22nd February 2022

The Pro Elephant Network (PREN)1 consists of an international community of diverse individuals and organizations, comprising specific expertise from both western and eastern academies on wild and captive elephants, including the fields of science, health, conservation, elephant welfare, economics, community leadership, social justice and the law.

Members of PREN have contributed in recent years to extensive research and to the recognition of who elephants are and of their individual needs2. There is growing evidence that, of all animals, elephants are among those who suffer the most in captivity3. In fact, results have shown that despite consistent efforts in providing enrichment at the zoo, the needs of elephants are still compromised4. Not only are captive elephants likely to acquire physical ailments that invariably shorten their lifespan5, they are also prone to developing psychological issues that can render depression6, stereotypy7 and self-harm8.

PREN Members have been made aware of the conditions and behaviour of Ely, the forty-one year old African Elephant, currently living in the San Juan de Aragon Zoo and are offering to assist by proposing alternatives and practical solutions for the improvement of her life and a sustainable way forward.

All elephants live highly complex social and emotional lives and need physical contact and bonding with other con- specifics and suffer tremendously when forced in solitude9.
In addition, they crave space and movement10. They evolved to cover long distances while feeding on a rich variety of vegetation across different ecosystems. In the wild they walk an average of 10 kilometres, and sometimes as many as 50km, every day, with home ranges covering hundreds of square kilometres11. When elephants’ movements are restricted in a captive environment, they develop potentially fatal conditions of their bones, joints and cardiovascular systems12. Elephants’ vital endeavours include mud wallowing, bathing, interacting with their companions through touch, vocalisation and olfaction and countless other social behaviours13. Given their complex brain, suite of emotional responses and physical expressiveness in a socially embedded life-style, it should not come as a surprise that the denial of any of these conditions through their captivity in undersized enclosures with inappropriate hard substrates and lack of enrichment, results in physical and psychological trauma and abnormal behaviour14.

Stereotypy, that invariant restrictive and apparently purposeless repetition of motor patterns, is commonly seen in captive elephants and indeed many captive animals held in impoverished environments. Exposure to psychological stress, which may be caused by close confinement and solitary living, has direct physiological consequences that impact the body’s ability to function15.

For these reasons, a total of 70 elephant exhibits have been closed or converted globally16. Zoos around the world (in Argentina17, Chile18, Alaska19, Pakistan20, etc.) have in recent times recognised that, despite their best efforts, they have been unable to meet the needs of their elephants; they have decided to prioritise the welfare needs of elephants and have agreed to translocate them to more suitable environments where the elephant can enjoy more physical and psychological comfort.

At the same time, an increasing number of institutions across the world are the subject of legal challenges over their keeping of elephants21.

PREN elephant experts urge that in order to prevent Ely’s unnecessary premature death, an urgent medical assessment and intervention is required. Members of the Pro Elephant Network are willing to offer their expertise. The implementation of high-priority measures is needed to alleviate Ely’s obvious suffering.

Members of the Pro Elephant Network and other wildlife organizations have participated in the successful relocation and reintegration of elephants, particularly solitary ones, into natural environments22 and to global sanctuaries. Elephant sanctuaries have sprung up around the world from Tennessee23 to Brazil24 to Cambodia25 and California26.

The release of Kaavan from the Islamabad zoo to a wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia made global news27 and the international publicity positively highlighted the administrators of the zoo in question.

PREN members know that the Mexico government would receive international recognition if the zoo administrators were to engage with our elephant specialists in order to find the best solution for Ely and to commit to ending the captivity of elephants at the San Juan de Aragon zoo.

It also came to the attention of our Members that the Head of Government would positively accept Ely to be evaluated by external national and international experts. PREN members hereby extend our collaborative offer to the administrators of the San Juan de Aragon Zoo, we remain available for further engagement and support.

CONCERN MOUNTS FOR THE WILD-CAUGHT NAMIBIAN ELEPHANTS TO BE TRADED WITH THE UAE

On Friday 18th February 2022, Members of the Pro Elephant Network sent an urgent communication to the following recipients:

The Acting Director of Biodiversity Department of CITES United Arab Emirates, the Minister of Climate Change and the Environment United Arab Emirates, Minister of Environment, Forestry and Tourism Namibia, the Namibian CITES Authority, the Secretary General of CITES, the Legal Officer of the CITES Secretariat, the Chief of the Scientific Unit CITES, the Chair of the CITES Standing Committee, Chair of the CITES Animals Committee, EAZA Director for Conservation and Population Management, EAZA Deputy Executive Director, EAZA African elephant Coordinator, EAZA Elephant TAG Chair, EAZA Assistant Coordinator, the IUCN Elephant Specialist Group, Co-Chair of the African Elephant Coalition and the Kenya Wildlife Service

PLEASE FIND A COPY OF THE FULL LETTER:

EXCERPTS FROM AFOREMENTIONED LETTER:

URGENT UPDATE ON THE TRADE IN WILD CAUGHT ELEPHANTS FROM NAMIBIA TO THE UAE

In October 2021, 22 wild elephants were captured and transported to a holding facility in Gobabis, the regional capital of the Omaheke Region of eastern Namibia. The holding facility is located on the premises of a trophy hunting safari business called GoHunt Namibia Safaris, the business is owned by Mr Gerrie Odendaal.

The wild elephants are being held captive in preparation for export to zoos in the United Arab Emirates, possibly to the Al Ain Zoo, member of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) and the Sharjah Desert Park. According to reports this deal was organised by a South African wildlife trader/broker and a large amount of money has already changed hands in this clearly commercial transaction. Additional information, received by some of the PREN Members, claims that several charter companies have allegedly refused to ship the elephants to their destination.

A legal opinion was obtained by the EMS Foundation, a member of the Pro Elephant Network, in 2021. The legal opinion stated that it would not be lawful for the Namibian CITES Management Authority to issue an export permit under either Appendix I or Appendix II of CITES, nor for a country outside of the range states for Loxodonta Africana to issue an import permit, particularly because Appendix II does not apply to the export and the available evidence indicates that exporting the Namibian wild-caught elephants elephants to an ex-situ programme cannot meet the requirements of Article III for trade in Appendix I species, particularly the non-detriment criterion.

The removal of wild African elephants for captive use is not supported by the African elephant Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (IUCN/SSN AfESG). In an official statement they clarified, “Believing there to be no direct benefit for in-situ conservation of African elephants, the African elephant Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission does not endorse the removal of African elephants from the wild for any captive use.”

In addition, the Namibian Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism confirmed in public statement issued on the 15th of February 2022, that the elephants were captured in the Kunene region of Namibia. For the record, we are relying upon our sources who have always indicated that the captured elephants are from threatened desert adapted populations.

In a letter, dated 31st of January 2022, to PREN from the EAZA Executive Office, the EAZA Ex-situ Programme for African elephant (EEP), they stated that the EAZA Ex-situ Programme (EEP) for African elephants has no intention, nor need, to import African elephants from the wild. They also stated that EAZA “is not principally against legal and sustainable importation of animals from the wild to accredited zoos in exceptional circumstances, and when in support of population management and species conservation needs. The EAZA Elephant Taxon Advisory Group (TAG) and the two EEPs have taken the position that such circumstances do not apply at present and thus do not support the importation of elephants from the wild into the EAZA population. EAZA Members are bound to abide by this position of the EEP and TAG.”

Since December 2020 the Members of PREN have attempted to engage with the Namibian authorities regarding the capture and sale of wild elephants in Namibia. More specifically PREN members requested information on the Non-Detriment Finding and data on the population and conditions of the capture. Unfortunately, all communications from PREN, including those sent in August, September and October 2021 were ignored and no action was taken to stop the capture of wild elephants in Namibia.

Access to information and the right to know is the fundamental cornerstone of democracy, transparency and accountability. This is squarely a matter of public interest.

On the 12th February 2022, Namibian investigative journalist John Grobler, was apparently arrested for allegedly flying a drone over the aforementioned far, his request for access having been denied. Grobler was apparently charged with trespassing on private property under Ordinance 3 of 1962. The 1962 ordinance clearly refers to a person physically trespassing and could not possibly refer to the use of modern drone. The Pro Elephant Network joins protests from many national and international institutions which firmly condemned the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) for this action and AMPOL for the charges with with no evidence and the confiscation of the journalist’s material.