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Friday 20 April 2007

SPCA battles Shearwater over elephants

The Zimbabwe National SPCA is continuing its efforts to gain access to nine 
elephants being 'trained' by the travel company Shearwater Adventures. The 
nine are the survivors of a group of 12 captured from herds in the Hwange 
National Park in November 2006.

In a January 2007 press release, Shearwater insisted that the ZNSPCA's 
claims that the elephants were being mistreated were untrue, claiming that 
their training methods were 'willing relationship[s] based on mutual trust 
and respect'. The ZNSPCA has consistently demanded that the company allow 
them access to the elephants to test this claim. After legal wrangling, the 
ZNSPCA were granted a court order for the inspection, which has yet to take 
place after Shearwater refused access to their premises on the grounds that 
the ZNSPCA had not obtained the assistance of vets named in the court order 
at the company's insistence. The ZNSPCA point out that they have written to 
these vets on more than one occasion but have not yet received any reply.

Shearwater has been operating in Zimbabwe since 1982, and offers a range of 
activities in the Victoria Falls region, including jet-boating, helicopter 
rides and whitewater rafting in addition to 'Elephant-Back Safaris'. The 
company's website claims to be the 'leading adventure activities company in 
Africa', as well as being 'ecologically sound' and 'in full compliance with 
respective National Parks regulations.' Their January press release argued 
that safaris were an excellent way to 'learn more about the elephant and as 
a result take a greater interest in the conservation issues surrounding 
them.' The company has strenuously denied the claims by the ZNSPCA that the 
elephants captured in 2006 have been left in unhygienic and dangerous 
conditions, pointing to three inspections by Government vets which gave 
positive accounts of the elephants' condition.

The competing press releases by the ZNSPCA and Shearwater Adventures are not 
helpful in establishing the condition of the elephants. The company has not 
responded on its website to the claim by the ZNSPCA that another elephant 
has died, nor explained why it has allowed three inspections by Government 
vets but obstructed the ZNSPCA's inspection. - Jaime Ashworth 

Source: SPCA battles Shearwater over elephants, The Zimbabwean (19/04/07) original article deleted.

Further Reading:  Captive Animal encounters: are they ethical? 

More from this blog: elephant-back safaris