Thursday, 9 November 2006

Elephants sent into Safari Slavery from Zimbabwe’s World Famous Hwange National Park

Up to 15 wild juvenile elephants are being captured in Zimbabwe’s world renowned Hwange National Park this week, to be condemned to lives of captive suffering as safari entertainment for tourists.
The permits were issued by Zimbabwe National Parks, and the animals are being caught in the country’s largest game reserve, Hwange National Park in south-west Zimbabwe. They are to be moved to an elephant training camp owned by Shearwater Adventures near Victoria Falls.

IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare – said it condemned the capture of the elephants for use in the elephant-back safari industry.

“It is disgraceful and a shame that Zimbabwe is prepared to sanction the abuses inherent in capturing wild elephants and subjecting them to lives in captivity. The fact that the animals are being taken from herds in Hwange, which is one of the world’s most renowned  game reserves, beggars belief,” said IFAW Southern Africa Director, Jason Bell-Leask.

Shearwater Adventures, one of Zimbabwe’s best known adventure tourism operators, has been given the permits to catch the elephants to be tamed and trained for use in their elephant-safari business.

The company, which on its website, says it is “environmentally friendly and ecologically sound”, is currently touting its range of adventure tourism activities – which include bungi jumping, white water rafting and walking with lions – at the World Travel Market exhibition in London this week.

The company currently has 11 elephants available for elephant-back safaris and for elephant interaction experiences. According to Shearwater Adventure’s website, their elephants are “rescued orphans” from Zimbabwe’s suspended culling operations. 

The Hwange elephants are to be captured from their wild family herds during the course of this week said a spokesperson for the Zimbabwe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ZNSPCA).

“Taking elephants from the wild for elephant-back safari tourism subjects the animals to entirely unregulated training methods that are open to abuse. No dedicated laws exist that governs methods used in training elephants.

“The elephant-back safari tourism industry typically claims that it is ‘saving’ young elephants from sure death in ‘culls’. IFAW disagrees - they are often taking young elephants from the wild to be subjected to confinement and training that is wrong, cruel and exploitative. The training pays no attention to the physical, behavioural, psychological and social needs of these highly intelligent creatures,” said Bell-Leask.

“This capture is shocking in the extreme and can only further damage Zimbabwe’s reputation as a conservation destination. IFAW urges all tourists to appreciate watching elephants in the wild, where they belong, and avoid cruel activities. ”
  • The Zimbabwean National Society for the Protection of Animals (ZNSPCA) confirmed yesterday, 7 November, that Zimbabwe National Parks had issued at least 10 permits to Shearwater Adventures to capture the elephants.
  • A ZNSPCA inspector is now in Hwange in an attempt to gain more information on the capture.
  • Elephant specialists and other premier southern African national parks, such as the Kruger National Park in South Africa, say it is not appropriate to separate family groups.

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