The National Zoological Gardens of South Africa needs to ensure the well-being and welfare of all the animals in their care. If this basic requirement is achieved, the mission and vision of SANBI’s scientific goal of conservation, research and education can begin to be addressed.
According to scientific studies zoos negatively impact the well-being of the animals they house. This is due to inherent aspects such as unvarying husbandry routines (Lyons et al.,1997) and constantly exposing the animals to the public (Young, 2003, Davey 2006, Davey, 2007).
One obvious and significant stressor is the noise/sound environment in the zoo. From time to time zoo animals can be exposed to potentially intense noise, for example, noise arising from automated gardening equipment or maintenance activities. Studies have demonstrated that unnatural noise can elicit stress responses in animals, especially Elephants and that whilst animals in zoos can adapt to many noises that they hear on a regular basis, a noise that is intense or unpredictable may negatively impact the welfare and induce a chronic stress response.
The National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act No. 10 of 2004) Minimum Standards for the Management of Captive Elephants, S4.22 suggests that Elephants are particularly sensitive to sound.
Noise pollution and sound pressure are increased with audience size, scientific studies analysed the behaviour of mammals at zoos and noted that zoo visitors, in general, have a negative welfare impact on individual zoo-housed mammals, especially groups of noisy visitors where levels were recorded outside of the recommended limits for human well-being.3 This study recommended that zoos needed to address this issue through a combination of visitor education campaigns and acoustic modification to enclosures.
Members of the Pro Elephant Network (PREN) have monitored the Pretoria Zoo closely since 2020, because of our interest in Charlie and our support for the negotiation process between the Honourable Minister, SANBI and the EMS Foundation, to release Charlie into a natural environment.
We have therefore taken note and recorded a rapid increase in the zoo facility being utilised as an organised music festival and party venue in 2023.
It is truly wonderful to see South Africans relaxing and enjoying themselves in a safe space and the Pretoria Zoo offers such a venue, however, we do not believe that animals, especially animals that are confined to enclosures should be forced to endure these festivities.
In 2015 the London Zoo was forced to shut down its alcohol-fuelled Friday night zoo parties because sources at the zoo were concerned at the impact of visitors’ rowdy behaviour on the animals. These revelations prompted a series of petitions signed by tens of thousands of people calling on the zoo to end the parties and an investigation by the Westminster council.
For your convenience, below we have highlighted a few of the recent events held at the Pretoria Zoo. We are extremely concerned with the location of Charlie’s enclosure with regard to the proximity of the parties.
The National Zoological Gardens is a Party Venue for Hire
Our research cannot provide the results of any scientific studies conducted on the negative effects on the well-being or welfare of the animals living at a zoo when amplified music is played over a nine-hour period. Quite obviously no such study has been carried out because wild animals should not be forced to endure such invasive and unnatural conditions.
Pretoria Zoo Women’s Day Party – 5th August 2023
The Woman’s Day party event started at 09H00 and ended at 20H00 and offered an exciting line-up of DJs. The entrance tickets were sold at Computicket, according to the promoters the event was sold out.
When studying all these images and videos, we fail to establish examples of SANBI’s mission to champion conservation or provide the enjoyment of South Africa’s rich biodiversity. “SANBI’s mandate is primarily derived from NEMBA and includes managing the National Botanical and Zoological Gardens as windows to South Africa’s biodiversity for enjoyment and education.”
The zoo animals, especially Charlie the Elephant, whose enclosure is visible in some of the images, are confronted with a constant barrage of music. The noise is related to all the partygoers who are so obviously fuelled by alcohol. There will be additional noise pollution related to the set-up of these events and clean-up operations of the zoo after the events.
Read about the other events and see the images in the attached letter.
The undersigning members of PREN are deeply concerned about the impact these events are having on Charlie’s physical and psychological health, his sleeping patterns and his stress levels.
PREN is of the learned opinion that SANBI and the zoo management are not demonstrating adequate consideration for his welfare. A recognised scientific organisation should never condone the behaviour demonstrated in these videos and images.
We note that there are three further party events planned in September alone.
We have noted that the visitors are obviously not interested in the animals living at the zoo as there is not a single image of the animals amongst the images proudly splashed across various social media platforms.
No animal should be subjected to this type of continuous suffering and abuse. We are, quite frankly taken aback that the SANBI scientific community could possibly condone these activities in such close proximity to Charlie’s enclosure.
PREN 2023. All Rights Reserved.