Elephants on Safari in the Western Cape

Monday, May 19, 2014
Cape Town, South Africa

Elephants are on safari in the Western Cape with four elephant calves taken from their wild herds last year in contravention of South Africa’s strict national guidelines on elephant management, being moved to the province’s most notorious elephant safari operation and, if permits are granted, a further three soon to be entertaining tourists at a wine farm in peri-urban Cape Town.

Now animal welfare groups are calling on CapeNature, the Province’s conservation authority, to explain why four calves at the heart of a legal action by the NSPCA after they were forcibly removed from their wild herds in North West Province have landed up at the Knysna Elephant Park, where elephants are used for riding safaris and other tourist interactions.

At the same time, they are asking CapeNature not to issue permits to Meerendal Wine Estate in Durbanville, which intends to use three elephants as a tourist attraction including for riding and to crush grapes to make a novelty range of wine.

“One wonders if CapeNature conservation officials actually know what their responsibilities to elephants are, and if they even care,” said Jason Bell, IFAW Director Southern Africa. CapeNature is the conservation authority of the Western Cape.

“The strange decision by CapeNature to allow the four calves at the heart of the NSPCA law suit to be moved into the Western Cape suggests some sort of tacit approval for elephant-back safaris and tourism. It sends entirely the wrong message to establishments like Meerendal Wine Estate which is clearly confident they will soon be boosting their tourism dollar by exploiting elephants”.

The NSPCA has issued proceedings against the owner of the Knysna Elephant Park, Elephants of Eden, Eastern Cape and North West Provinces, and the National Department, after four elephant calves were removed from their wild herds in North West Province and moved to the Eastern Cape in contravention of the National Norms and Standards for the Management of Elephants in South Africa.

In Cape Town Meerendal Wine Estate in Durbanville began construction of an elaborate elephant stable last November.

The City of Cape Town, the National Council of SPCA’s and the Cape Animal Welfare Forum, an umbrella body representing about 30 animal welfare groups, have all opposed Meerendal’s plans to use the elephants as a tourist attraction including for riding and to crush grapes to make a novelty wine.

The wine farm is about 10 minutes from suburban Durbanville.

“It’s very curious that Meerendal has gone ahead with the construction of an elephant stable, without yet receiving the permits they need to receive the elephants. They are clearly very confident they will be given the green light,” said Alan Perrins, Chairman of the Cape Animal Welfare Forum and CEO of the Cape of Good Hope SPCA (COGHSPCA).

“The Cape Animal Welfare Forum and COGHSPCA vigorously oppose the idea of Meerendal’s plan for offering elephant tourism as part of their activities. Elephants belong in the wild, and should not be treated as a sideshow,” said Perrins.

The NSPCA said it was important that CapeNature not be seen to be complicit in the exploitation of elephants by the tourism industry.

“CapeNature are well aware that the NSPCA has issued proceedings against the owner of the Knysna Elephant Park, Eastern Cape and North West Provinces, and the national Department of the Environment, so we are baffled as to why they have allowed the elephant calves to be moved to a tourism facility,” said Ainsley Hay for the NSPCA.

“In addition to these charges we have recently laid charges of animal cruelty against the owners of Elephants of Eden and Knysna Elephant Park after receiving shocking footage of inhumane training methods used. This further cements our concerns with the inherent cruelty involved in the use of elephants for entertainment in captivity”.

“Training elephants for the safari industry is well known for the cruelty employed in breaking the spirit of an elephant to make it compliant to human interaction. Legislation states that the use of elephants for tourism should not occur ‘in an inappropriate, inhumane or unethical manner’,”she said.

The NSPCA said South Africa’s strict laws on elephant management make it clear that, in the interests of welfare, elephants can only be translocated as part of a cow-calf group and only if the entire calf-cow group is moved. In the case of the four North West elephants calves they were removed because their mothers were due to be shot in trophy hunts. Elephants may also not be moved from the wild for the purposes of captivity.

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Press Contact

Christina Pretorius (IFAW Elephant Programme)
Contact phone:
+27 21 701 8642
Contact mobile:
+27 82 330 2558
Contact email:
Cape of Good Hope SPCA & Cape Animal Welfare Forum: Allan Perrins –
Contact phone:
+27 21 700 4182
Contact email:
NSPCA: Ainsley Hay (Manager Wildlife Protection Unit)
Contact phone:
+27 11 907 3590


Dr. Cynthia Moss, IFAW Elephant Expert
IFAW Elephant Expert
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
James Isiche, Regional Director, East Africa
Regional Director, East Africa
Jason Bell, Program Director, Elephants Regional Director, South Africa
Program Director, Elephants, Regional Director, South Africa
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy