LAST OF THE TULI 30, LOKI/MURTHY, AND THAI LOGGING ELEPHANTS ALL FIND REFUGE
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 1999:
JOHANNESBURG, CHENNAI, BANGKOK– –
Seven thousand South Africans marched on African Game
Services owner Riccardo Ghiazza’s farm near Brits on July 11
demanding an end to wild elephant exports and freedom for the
nine elephants of the “Tuli 30” then still with Ghiazza.
Ten burly bikers crashed Ghiazza’s gate and threatened
to free the elephants themselves, said WildNet Africa.
Outrage built for a week after the South African
Broadcast Corporation program Carte Blanche on July 4 aired
National SPCA undercover video of mahouts beating the elephants.
The videotaping was done at the Ghiazza farm over a
two-month interval by NSPCA inspectors Andries Venter, 25,
Yvonne Seaton, 26, and Karen Moller, 24, following instructions
from a High Court judge.
Indicted for cruelty were former anti-poaching ranger
Henry Wayne Stockigt, 32; Orustinus Parwanto, 23, of
Indonesia; and Sugiyanto, 25, also of Indonesia, who apparently
has no surname.
The new footage was exempt from a court order
Ghiazza won in 1998 which prevented the NSPCA from disclosing
September 1998 footage which allegedly showed
injuries to the elephants faces, trunks, and legs, cruel chaining,
and signs of stress and malnutrition.
Captured in the Tuli district of Botswana as purported
surplus in June 1998, Ghiazza bought the “Tuli 30”––all
babies–– in July 1998. Ghiazza reportedly already had foreign
buyers lined up, as soon as they were trained, and had orders
for 20 more baby elephants as soon as they were caught.
Allegations that the elephants were held and handled
inhumanely by Ghiazza’s staff surfaced almost immediately.
But the World Wildlife Fund, Rhino & Elephant
Foundation, Endangered Wildlife Trust, South African
Veterinary Association, and the Wildlife and Environment
Society of South Africa defended the Ghiazza deal as––in their
view––good “sustainable use” of the “wildlife resource.”
Then-REF director Andrew McKenzie, DVM,
cofounded the Wildlife Translocation Association of South
Africa, and is son-in-law of Ted Steyn, head of the landowners’
group who sold the Tuli 30 to Ghiazza.
In October 1998 the NSPCA won custody of the elephants
via court order––but they remained with Ghiazza pending
the outcome of an appeal.
The NSPCA also charged one of Ghiazza’s mahouts
with cruelty for allegedly stabbing an elephant with a pitchfork.
After the secretariat of the Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species temporarily revoked
Ghiazza’s permit to sell the elephants, Botswana suspended
further deals with Ghiazza.
Probing Ghiazza’s record, Fiona Macleod of the
Johannesburg Mail & Guardian found he had earlier sold 418
reptiles to convicted California wildlife smuggler Michael Van
Nostrand, 31, of Hollywood.
Despite all that, as the Tuli case dragged on,
Ghiazza was able to sell 16 of the 30 elephants to foreign buyers
and five of them to another South African rancher.
Ghiazza, 46, emigrated to South Africa in 1990,
Maclead reported, and within 10 years became the nation’s
most active wildlife exporter. The latest chapter
of the Tuli elephant saga broke, Macleod wrote,
just as he was gathering 400 animals for sale to a
safari park in China.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
started investigating Ghiazza after receiving
reports that he was shipping planeloads of animals
to China and that hundreds died en route,”
Macleod added. “Legitimate South African
traders say some U.S. outfits now insist on written
guarantees that they have no links to Ghiazza
before they do business.”
Embarrassed, the World Wildlife
Fund on July 23 announced it would pay
Ghiazza $80,000 for the nine Tuli elephants he
had left, and would release them in Marakale
National Park, in a deal requiring Ghiazza to
donate the money toward the elephants’ upkeep.
The elephants arrived at the park on
July 30. Wardens hoped they would be adopted by one of two
resident matriarchal herds.
WWF-South Africa director of conservation Rob
Little said the elephants’ $80,000 purchase price would be used
to create an international conservation area under auspices of
the Peace Parks Foundation, a WWF-SA subsidiary. The project
would link the Tuli district of Botswana, South Africa,
and part of Zimbabwe.
Defending “sustainable consumptive use” wildlife
management, the Rhino and Elephant Foundation, World
Conservation Union, and the Wildlife and Environment
Society accused the NSPCA undercover team of aiding and
abetting the cruelty by not stopping it as it happened.
“Closer scrutiny of the saga points to an elaborate
campaign by animal rights groups to influence South African
policy on wildlife management, with the Tuli elephants being
used as part of this plan,” charged Russel Molefe in the
WCU spokesperson Saliem Fakir called the NSPCA
approach “just as abhorrent as the whipping and beating of the
Added Andrew McKenzie, five days after resigning
as Rhino and Elephant Foundation director under fire over his
handling of the Tuli 30 case, “It was an attack, not on the
alleged and identifiable perpetrators, but on the state and the
people of South Africa.”
In his resignation statement, McKenzie admitted to
“tarnishing the name of REF in pursuit of a complex and intricate
battle against the international animal rights movement.”
McKenzie was succeeded as head of REF by Chris
Styles, whom McKenzie hired away from a post as South
African director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare
in November 1998. Styles went to IFAW after having been
tentatively hired for a similar job by Care For the Wild, “probably
for more money,” CFW managing director Chris Jordan
told ANIMAL PEOPLE.
Under Styles, REF formally charged the NSPCA
with being an accessory to the beatings.
ANIMAL PEOPLE had just mailed our July/August
edition, detailing the saga of the Indian elephant Loki/Murthy,
when an update arrived by special air courier from K. Babu,
assistant secretary of the Animal Welfare Board of India.
Babu had just returned to the AWB office in Chennai,
after visiting Loki/Murthy at the Mudhumalai Wildlife
Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu state, at request of AWB chair
Ghumanmal Lodha and Indian minister for social justice and
empowerment Maneka Gandhi, who is also founder of People
For Animals, the leading animal rights group in India.
Babu refuted in detail, reinforced by 14 photographs,
most of the claims about the care and treatment of Loki/Murthy
made in a May joint mailing by the Performing Animal Welfare
Society and the India Project for Animals and Nature. PAWS
and IPAN called the Loki/Murthy episode the “worst case of
animal abuse ever documented.”
Babu’s account and photos, however, called into
question whether Loki/Murthy had ever been done deliberate
harm in captivity. While at large, however, Loki/Murthy suffered
at least 10 gunshot wounds and a machete blow to his
trunk. Many of the injuries were inflicted in self-defense by
some of the 36 humans he killed and the hundreds more he
menaced during a five-year series of dawn stampedes. He was
also shot in the legs by some of the police and forest wardens
who tried for several years to apprehend him.
Upon capture, Loki/Murthy was held at first with
thick ropes, Babu wrote. After Loki/Murthy broke the ropes,
he was chained, and severely injured his feet and ankles by
resisting the chains.
“When the elephant was kept in the kraal [corral],”
Babu continuned, “the method used for taming was ‘carrot and
stick,’ i.e. appreciating him by feeding when he obeyed a command,
and beating him with a stick when he didn’t. The iron
rod called the ankus, which is used extensively elsewhere for
training, taming, or controlling elephants, was not used.”
Loki/Murthy, who may once have been a work elephant,
adjusted quickly to captivity. He was chained above the
left rear knee for Babu’s physical inspection, but normally
roams a substantial walled forest habitat unchained, with other
elephants. Four photos, in sequence, showed Babu approaching
Loki/Murthy very cautiously, being accepted, and finally
being allowed to feed him treats by hand and stroke his trunk.
The IPAN/PAWS allegations, Babu confirmed,
arose after IPAN representative Deanna Krantz “offered to take
the elephant to her custody in Mavanhalla,” where she has a
small sanctuary, “and the Tamil Nadu Forest Department officials
were not willing to give away the animal. The land at the
disposal of Ms. Krantz was only about three acres, and her
staff is limited,” Babu explained, “whereas the Forest
Department can maintain the elephant in the forest, with staff
and facilities in abundance. There is no need to hand
Loki/Murthy to any other agency,” Babu concluded.
Freed in Thailand
If Loki/Murthy was an abandoned ex-working elephant,
his case was typical of many––except that he killed
more people and becsme more notorious than any other elephant
on recent record. Ex-working elephants who have been
abandoned by their handlers are problematic throughout both
India and Thailand, and are frequently dangerous, since they
lack wild elephant survival skills and are habituated to humans.
Thailand had 5,232 working elephants in 1980, but
currently has only 3,565, due largely to decreased logging.
The Doi Pha Muang Wildlife Sanctuary “carefully screens exworkiong
elephants,” Jerry Harmer of Associated Press recently
reported, “and steers them to the wild, to breeding or job
retraining centers, to an old-age home, or––for bad-tempered
ones––a rehabilitation center.”
The Doi Pha Muang sanctuary in July 1999 released
23 ex-work elephants into the wild. Twenty-four elephants
were released in March; 24 are to be let go in November.
“The total––72––is meant to honor Thai King Bhumibol
Adulyadej, who in December celebrates his 72nd birthday,”
said Harmer, noting that “elephants have always been
closely identified with the three bulwark institutions of
Thailand: the monarchy, Buddhism, and the nation.”