Proposed “norms and standards” for elephant captivity outrage South African activists
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November/December 2007:
PRETORIA–Efforts by South African minister for environmental
affairs and tourism Martinus Van Schalkwyk to produce “norms and
standards” governing the capture and use of elephants appear to have
infuriated both animal advocates and the captive elephant industry.
Almost a year into the consultation process, Van Schalkwyk
apparently pleased no one with draft “Norms and Standards” presented
on November 12.
The first conflict was over allowing elephant captures.
“The decision by the department to allow the capture of
elephants from wild herds on private and communal land for training
and use in the safari industry, including elephant- back safaris,
is inexplicable and inexcusable,” alleged Jason Bell-Leask of the
International Fund for Animal Welfare.
“The National SPCA walked out of the meeting in disgust and
will be taking the matter under legal advisement,” said NSPCA
representative Brenda Santon. “As the Norms and Standards currently
stand, the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism is placing
the onus on animal welfare organizations to police the industry but
the Norms and Standards offer no restrictions or prohibitions on the
training of elephants. No attempt has been made to cap the industry.
The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism has suggested
that the welfare issues be addressed through the Department of
Agriculture,” Stanton continued. “The NSPCA fails to see the logic
in this approach when the tourism industry falls within the
“In their current form, these norms and standards are
totally inadequate in terms of welfare,” Santon elaborated. “We are
committed to improving the lot of this country’s captive elephants,
and consider the use of ankuses, chains and any type of deprivation
and the restriction of social contact as unethical and cruel.”
Animal Rights Africa spokesperson Michele Pickover on
November 19 distributed a similar but more detailed statement,
accusing the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism of
“abdicating their responsibilities and being completely untransparent
and unaccountable” in attempting to transfer supervision of captive
elephants to the Department of Agriculture.
The major effect of the transfer would be to in effect
reclassify captive elephants from being “wildlife” to being domestic
“We are urgently requesting that the Norms and Standards be
put on hold,” wrote Pickover, “until the process is properly
extended and dealt with; that an immediate moratorium be placed on
issuing permits for the capture and training of elephants; [and
that] a ban be placed on all capture of any elephants from the wild,
to include prohibiting the capture of so-called ‘problem’ elephants,
‘vagrant’ elephants, and the removal of live elephants from culls or
from free living families, herds and clans.
“Animal Rights Africa does not support the Norms and
Standards on captive elephants as they currently stand,” Pickover
added, “and if this situation is not rectified, we will be left
with no other choice but to take legal action to protect elephants
from further exploitation and cruelty.”
Elephant Trainers’ Association spokesperson Greg Vogt
declared ahead of the November 12 presentation that the ETA had
produced “norms and standards” for itself, “and that no other
monitoring or regulation is necessary,” reported Mike Cadman of the
Sunday Independent. “He said that the captive-elephant tourist
industry did not believe that animal rights or animal welfare
organisations, or anyone not involved in the industry, should have
a say about how elephant owners or trainers treated their elephants.
“There are at least 112 elephants in captivity in South
Africa,” Cadman said, “of whom 92 are used to give rides to
tourists, or otherwise interact with them. Fourteen captive
elephants are in circuses or the film industry, and six are in zoos.”