E­lep­hant Park court ca­se co­ming up

Knysna-Plett Herald - - Voorblad - Yo­lan­dé S­tan­der

“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.

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