Elephant Park court case coming up
“The truth will prevail.”
This was the response from Lizette Withers of the Knysna Elephant Park after the NSPCA had over the past week circulated a statement about an upcoming court case and making a call for wild animals to remain in the wild.
Withers, along with the park’s management, is facing animal cruelty charges in the Alexandria Regional Court on 6 November relating to an incident at the park’s previous property in the Eastern Cape in 2008.
In May 2014, the NSPCA also laid criminal complaints against the park, its management and directors in terms of the Animals Protection Act 71 of 1962 in response to footage depicting elephant calves and juvenile elephants being chained, roped and stretched, shocked with electric cattle prods and hit with bullhooks – methods the organisation claimed were used to force the animals into submission.
However, in October 2015 the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in Grahamstown decided not to prosecute.
The NSPCA queried this decision and approached the office of the national Director of Public Prosecutions, who later informed them that a decision had been taken to forge ahead with the case.
The park’s owners have rubbished these claims from the outset and made it clear that the incidents depicted in the footage had taken place in 2008, occurring at the hands of colleagues of a handler killed by an elephant.
Withers earlier said the incident happened at Elephants of Eden in Alexandria in the Eastern Cape – before it moved to the Garden Route and became part of its sister organisation, Knysna Elephant Park – while the park’s manager was on leave. Workers reportedly claimed that their colleague’s spirit told them to take revenge.
The staff members involved were subsequently fired.
Withers said this week that they are unable to comment on the matter as it is sub judice.
“What we can say is that the truth will finally prevail,” Withers said.
The NSPCA in the meantime said the organisation subscribes to the credo that “wild animals belong in the wild” and is therefore opposed to the removal of elephants from the wild for domestication purposes.
“We believe that elephants should not be trained, kept in captivity and/or used for entertainment,” it said in a statement.