Government Set to Hobble South Africa’s Elephant-back Tourism Industry

Thursday, 8 March, 2007
Cape Town, South Africa
If Government gets its way South Africa’s notorious captive elephant industry, including elephant back tourism, is about to have its wings clipped.
Recommendations contained in the Draft National Norms and Standards for Elephant Management released on Friday, 2nd March, include stopping the capture from the wild of anything other than genuine orphan elephant calves. The taking of juvenile elephants from their live wild herds has, in recent years, been the favoured source of new stock for taming and training by the elephant tourism industry.
IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare –, which campaigns against the elephant safari industry said that, if adopted the new laws will prevent any further real growth of this form of tourism.
“Currently, this is a business out of control. It is callous and greedy in its demands for young elephants, forcibly removing animals from their wild herds and subjecting them to training that is wrong, cruel and exploitative,” said Southern Africa Director of IFAW, Jason Bell-Leask.
In the past, the industry has played on public emotions saying that by taking young elephants from the wild they are ‘saving’ them from a cull. While IFAW remains opposed to culling the suggested new norms and standards are clear that, if in the future culling should be required to be used as a form of elephant management, entire family groups and not just selected animals will be culled.
“The onus is going to be on the elephant safari tourism industry to prove that young elephants they wish to capture are genuine orphaned animals and we believe that will be very difficult if not impossible. Their free-for-all attitude to using wild elephant herds as a convenient stock source will have to stop,” said Bell-Leask.
“IFAW has long been calling for better legislation to manage the elephant safari industry, and it seems that government is finally going to get tough on this awful blight on South Africa’s tourism landscape.
“Ideally we would like them to ban the industry altogether in the interests of elephant welfare, but also from a human safety point of view. If that cannot be then IFAW would welcome regulations to prevent any further growth of elephant safari tourism.”
In addition the Draft Norms and Standards for Elephant Management call for a national register of captive elephants, and for permits to keep captive elephants to be issued for only three years at a time and subject to renewal.
In 2005 an IFAW investigation into the elephant safari tourism industry found that in South Africa 72 animals were being used for elephant-back safaris and walks. IFAW estimates that in 2007 as many as 120 elephants may be in use in the industry.
IFAW praised the Guiding Principles contained in the Draft Norms and Standards for Elephant Management that refer to elephants as being sentient beings and that management interventions for elephants should take into account the “social structure of elephants.”

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