PREN members are of the strong opinion that in keeping with the vision of a secured, restored, and rewilded natural landscapes with thriving populations of Elephant, Lion, Rhino, and Leopard, as indicators for a vibrant, responsible, inclusive, transformed, and sustainable wildlife sector, the policies related to elephants in captivity in South Africa should be closely examined. The aforementioned vision was determined following two years of work carried out by the Ministerial appointed High Level Panel of Experts, Minister Barbara Creecy released the HLP Report on the 2nd of May 2021.
In order to prevent further exploitation of elephants currently held captive in South Africa an entire section should be included in the Draft Policy Position on the Sustainable Use of Elephant, Lion, Leopard and Rhinoceros. Facilities in South Africa in which elephants are held in controlled environments for profit must be persuaded to provide the government with verifiable updated data on each elephant held in captivity including the purpose of the facilities. Facilities advertised as sanctuaries or rehabilitation facilities for elephants must provide details of such.
The United Kingdom remains the top European source market of tourists visiting South Africa. The Animals Low-Welfare Activities Abroad Act of 2023 is a new law which aims to protect animals used in tourism, the legislation which applies in England and Northern Ireland will also allow the British government to bring forward a ban on selling or advertising specific types of wildlife tourism. This is likely to include unethical activities where elephants are forced to take selfies with tourists, where elephants have been subjected to brutal training methods, and where elephants are ridden or drugged for human interaction. In South Africa, facilities offer elephant back riding, feeding, walking, touching, riding, partying, getting married and even sleeping over, with the elephants.
PREN is currently supporting a number of initiatives to release elephants from unsuitable captive facilities in South Africa, including providing scientific evidence, highlighting issues of concern and suggesting best solutions for the release of Charlie the elephant, held at the SANBI National Zoological Garden (NZG) and recently showcasing distressed and stereotypical behaviour; PREN has also supported the relocation of Tswale the elephant, who is used for close human interaction on private property in the Mpumalanga province.
PREN is of the strong opinion that all tourist attractions that keep or breed elephants for commercial purposes and promote direct contact with elephants, including rides, shows or tricks, should be phased out. PREN elephant specialists would be happy to work with the South African authorities to identify the most appropriate solutions for these elephants.