“Captive elephants lack the very foundation of elephant life.” Dr Keith Lindsay

Based on the body of overwhelming scientific evidence, South Africa took the commendable decision in 2008 to ban the capture of elephants from the wild for the purposes of captivity and trade under the terms of the National Norms and Standards for the Management of Elephants in South Africa (2008). The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Species Survival Commission African Elephant Specialist Group opposes the removal of African elephants from the wild for any captive use. This position was reaffirmed at the group’s meeting in Pretoria, South Africa in July 2019.

On 6 September 2019, elephant specialists from around Africa and the world participated in an Indaba in South Africa, ‘Taking Elephants out of the Room’, to scrutinize the science, policy and welfare issues related to elephants in captivity. The overwhelming conclusion of the Captive Elephant Indaba was that no elephants should be placed in captivity and elephants currently in captivity should be rewilded.

Trading in Elephants is unconscionable and fails to recognise the sheer intelligence, sentience and complex social structures of Elephants.

Elephants are among the most social animals on the planet and keeping them in captivity and zoos is contrary to their nature and welfare. In captivity these Namibian elephants will have no agency. They have been removed from their context and will be forced to live unnatural, isolated, sad and denigrated lives.

Image Credit: Gerrie Odendaal / Conservation Namibia

©The EMS Foundation 2022. All Rights Reserved.






The EMS Foundation has been informed that rare wild caught Namibian desert adapted elephants, as part of a clearly commercial transaction, were transported from the containment area on the GoHuntNamibia Safari property located in Gobabis in Namibia and loaded onto a Fly Pro Moldovan Cargo charter plane last night (4th March 2022), at Hosea Kutako International Airport for two captive destinations in the UAE – likely the Al Ain Zoo−a member of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA)−and Sharjah Safari. The flight landed at Sharjah at five am local time.

It goes without question that there are serious welfare and ethical concerns related to the capture, restraint, trade and captivity of elephants. Elephant ethologists, behaviourists and scientists are clear – elephants do not belong in captivity. 

Even the African Elephant Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (IUCN/SSN AfESG) does not support the removal of wild African elephants for captive use. In an official statement they clarified, “Believing there to be no direct benefit for in situ conservation of African elephants, the African Elephant Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission does not endorse the removal of African elephants from the wild for any captive use.”

Legal Opinion obtained by the EMS Foundation, found that it would not be lawful for the Namibia CITES Management Authority to issue an export permit under either Appendix I or Appendix II of CITES, nor for a country outside of the range states for Loxodonta Africana to issue an import permit, particularly because Appendix II does not apply to the export and the available evidence indicates that exporting the Namibian wild caught elephants to an ex situ programme cannot meet the requirements of Article III for trade in Appendix I species, particularly the non-detriment criterion.

In a statement, the Namibian authorities confirmed that they had captured wild elephants which were sold on auction in 2021. They confirmed that some of these elephants will be exported to a foreign country. “We are signatories to CITES and we are aware of the international statues, the international law that governs CITES member states.  Our law does not allow an animal to be exported to a country where we know the environment is not conducive for this animal.” 

A number of urgent complaints and letters of concern have been sent by the NGO sector to CITES, and the Namibian and UAE authorities about the cruel capture, confinement and trade of wild elephants for captivity purposes. For example:

  • In December 2020 PREN members highlighted their concerns relating to the proposals to offer live elephants for commercial sale captured from regions of Namibia. 
  • On World Elephant Day on the 12th August 2021, PREN members questioned whether the live wild elephants mentioned in official statements would be sold internationally or whether they were captured for purposes of in situ conservation purposes and whether any of the captured elephants would be held in captivity. 
  • On the 21st September 2021, PREN members urgently directed communications to the CITES Secretary General, to the CITES Legal Affairs and Compliance officer, the Chief of the CITES Science Unit of the Secretariat, the Chair of the CITES Standing Committee and the Chair of the CITES Animals Committee.
  • On the 27th of October 2021, PREN members urgently requested that the CITES Secretariat approach the Namibian government urging the government to comply with CITES regulations and provisions. 
  • On the 18th of February 2022 18th of February 2022 PREN members urgently requested that the Acting Director Biodiversity Department CITES UAE, Namibian CITES Authority, CITES Secretary General, CITES Legal and Compliance Officer, Chair of the CITES Standing Committee and the Chair of the CITES Animals Committee halt the export of the wild caught Namibian elephants and ensure that they are returned to the wild as soon as possible.  

Shamefully, and indicative of the lack of accountability and transparency, there has been no official response to any of these letters from the CITES Secretariat, the UAE or Namibia. 


The EMS Foundation takes note of the inclusion of the wild caught Namibian elephant subject matter on agenda item number 50 at the CITES Standing Committee 74th meeting in Lyon which will be held from the 7th to the 11th of March 2022.  At the very least we demand that the CITES Standing Committee take a clear position on the capture of wild elephants in Namibia. 

Amongst many other matters that require careful consideration, the CITES Standing Committee will the discuss the issue which is listed as agenda item 50, the legal opinion on CITES rules on exports of live African elephants from Namibia submitted by Burkina Faso. The published findings of this legal opinion are as follows: 

  1. Namibia’s elephant population is listed in CITES Appendix II, subject to annotation 2. The annotation clearly states that it allows trade in live elephants from Namibia exclusively for in situ conservation programmes, but by inference not to other locations or for any other purpose. 
  2. Any previous or future export of live wild-caught elephants from Namibia to a destination outside the natural range of the species therefore does not comply with the provisions of CITES. 
  3. The last paragraph of annotation 2 does not apply to live wild-caught specimens and any interpretation implying that live elephants may be exported from Namibia to ex situ locations is contrary to the Convention and the fundamental principles of interpretation of treaties. Given that Namibia’s elephant population is listed in CITES Appendix II, which is subject to a legally binding restriction on live trade, in force since 2003, limiting such trade to in situ conservation programmes only, exports of live wild-caught elephants from Namibia should only be permissible to destinations within the natural range of the species”

As a member of the Species Survival Network (SSN)the EMS Foundation also supports the SSN input on Issue 50 – the definition of the term ‘appropriate and acceptable destinations’ (Report of AC SC74 Doc.). 


The CITES Parties and the CITES Secretariat, despite flagrant non-compliance and numerous communications from the NGO sector as well as legal opinions provided to them from recognised legal firms in Switzerland and South Africa have failed to act or address the capture and sale of wild elephants into captivity. The consequence of this is that a number of elephants have suffered immensely and the CITES parties involved in these commercial transactions are allowed to continue with impunity.  

Furthermore, CITES ignored the African Elephant Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission who does not endorse the removal of African elephants from the wild for any captive use. 

The Species Survival Network has published a rejection of Namibia’s use of Article III of the Convention re: its exports of live African elephants to non-range States.

The export of live wild-caught elephants should only be permissible to destinations within the natural range state of the species, i.e. for bona Vida in situ conservation reasons.

The UAE was suspended once before from CITES and should be suspended again. The glaring question is: will CITES Parties do the right thing and enforce their own Treaty.

Images: Previous export of African elephants from Africa to the UAE Credit: Facebook

©The EMS Foundation 2022. All Rights Reserved.





Sunday 13th February 2022

On the 4th of January 2021, the Pro Elephant Network publicly expressed their concerns with regard to the tender notice published on the 3rd December 2020        by the state owned New Era Namibian newspaper from the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism.

The tender notice was for the sale of 170 wild elephants from four commercial breeding areas in the north of Namibia.  PREN urged the Namibian government to withdraw the tender notice and offered expert assistance with identifying and implementing solutions for human wildlife conflict, drought mitigation and perceived concerns of overpopulation of elephants in Namibia. 

On the 11th August 2021, the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism in Namibia announced that 57 elephants of the 170 which were put on tender in December 2020 were sold.  They confirmed that 42 elephants will be exported from Namibia.

By October 2021, some members of PREN received reliable information that indicated that the selection and capture of the elephants had taken place and that the elephants were being held in quarantine in preparation for export.  The information suggested that a South African wildlife broker was involved in the process.  The information further alleged that the wild caught elephants were destined for captive locations in the United Arab Emirates.

The EMS Foundation obtained a Legal Opinion which stated that it would not be lawful for the Namibian CITES Management Authority to issue an export permit under either Appendix I or Appendix II of CITES and that, similarly, it would not be lawful for a country outside of the range states for Loxodonta Africana to issue an import permit. 

On the 12th of February 2022, John Grobler, a well-known and internationally published, Namibian investigative journalist was arrested and charged with trespassing under Ordinance 3 of 1962.  According to John Grobler, he was arrested for allegedly flying a drone over a farm in Gobabis in Namibia, owned by GoHunt Namibia Safaris owner, Gerrie Odendaal, where 23 wild, captured elephants with two new born calves, are allegedly being held. 

The EMS Foundation is concerned at the lack of transparency by the Namibian government.  The EMS Foundation fails to understand why the processes of the capture, of the quarantine and the export and import of these elephants has not been transparent if no laws have been broken. 

The EMS Foundation cannot possibly condone the heavy-handed approach of the Namibian government towards John Grobler.  

The capture of free roaming wild elephants is a matter of national interest, general public concern and importance.  This is a subject of legitimate global news interest.  This is an example where an individual has intervened by taking a public interest action and attempted to disclose questionable behaviour by others. 

Image Credit: Ariadne van Zandbergen (Desert Elephant with young crossing, the Huab River)

©The EMS Foundation 2022. All Rights Reserved.




Elephants Killed for Trophies in the Kruger National Park System, South Africa

The EMS Foundation has confirmed, via an access to information request to the Limpopo government (LEDET), that in 2020 four male elephants were killed for trophies in an open system with the Kruger National Park – the Balule Reserve. In addition, in 2020, one male elephant was also trophy hunted in the Maremani Nature Reserve, which belongs to the Danish Aage V. Jensen Foundation – https://avjcf.org.                                       

Trophy Hunting VS Ubuntu

Trophy hunting is the killing of wild animals for recreation with the purpose of collecting trophies such as horns, antlers, skulls, skins, tusks or teeth for display. Trophy hunting, like poaching, artificially selects the biggest and strongest animals (largest tusks and thickest manes), weakening populations’ genetic health and variation. Therefore, while revenue may be forthcoming in the short term from such extraction, the longer-term effects are that population growth dynamics are negatively affected.

The incentives that drive trophy hunting (selecting the strongest) are fundamentally at odds with the conservation imperative (preserving the strongest). Beyond the negative ecological effects, the practice remains rooted in colonial modes of extraction. Some also argue that trophy hunting is reinforcing deep apartheid era social and racial inequalities in Africa because organised hunting of endangered wildlife mostly benefits wealthy white landowners while exploiting black workers by paying them pitiful wages. 

Trophy hunting is in stark contradiction with African value systems such as Ubuntu (where harmony, connectedness and respect extend beyond human relationships to the whole living world) and notions of communal commitment to the protection of animals. As Dr Mucha Mkono noted in her article: Neo-colonialism and greed: Africans views on trophy hunting in social media, while a hunter might have a permit to hunt and shoot an animal, if the community and environment suffer it is considered that the principles of Ubuntu have been violated. Furthermore, she says that: “Ubuntu, being grounded in an attitude of caring and compassion, does not excuse gratuitous violence towards individual animals.”  

Balule Private Nature Reserve and the Killing of Elephants

Elephants are irreplaceable ecosystem engineers and their removal negatively impacts ecosystem integrity and biodiversity preservation.  Trophy hunters justify targeting older bull elephants on the grounds they are “redundant”. But, a recent study shows that old male elephants play a key role leading all-male groups. Also, when trophy hunters eliminate older bulls, they destroy elephant family integrity (through trauma and removal of the discipline and knowledge transfer functions executed by patriarchs) and force matriarchs to mate with younger bulls they would otherwise not have selected, thereby skewing reproduction patterns.   

Pre-Covid-19, approximately 950 000 people visited the world-renowned Kruger National Park (KNP) every year. With an annual budget of close to 1 billion ZAR 80% of this conservation income is self-generated through its thriving tourism activities within these wild, natural and protected spaces. 

A classic example of entrenched white privilege is the Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR) in South Africa, bordering the KNP. The six private reserves each comprise a number of different private owners and farms. By 1996, these reserves had almost no elephants left as they had been hunted to near extinction. The fences were dropped in 1993 – before the end of apartheid – on the premise of creating ‘ecological unity’ between the APNR and the KNP itself. Commercial hunting, in the 1996 agreement, was not mentioned at all. Animals under public custodianship (KNP) now move freely between the APNR and the KNP. Far from creating ecological unity, however, they are treated as res nullius (nobody’s property) in the APNR and are hunted. The APNR allows the commercial trophy hunting of a number of animals, including elephants, lions and buffalos. These animals are part of the country’s national heritage but are permitted to be shot by foreign trophy hunters for the benefit of a small number of wealthy white landowners. How much money actually accrues to local communities remains unknown due to a lack of transparency in the industry. 

Balule Private Game Reserve is located along the banks of the Olifants River between Phalaborwa and Hoedspruit in the Limpopo Province. Balule shares an un-fenced border with the KNP and is one of the APNRs. According to various websites there are twenty-six unique options from budget to luxury accommodation available. 

The ecological benefits of sharing an open system with the KNP has made Balule a popular ecotourism destination and protection efforts have ensured that the wildlife population includes an abundance of lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and black rhino. 

Trophy hunting is permitted in Balule Private Nature Reserve despite what this article states. 

The Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs raised concerns regarding the law governing hunting in the Kruger National Park and about contractual arrangements between the Kruger National Park and the Association of Private Nature Reserves in September 2018.

Unfortunately, over the past three years a number of trophy hunts in Balule have provided very negative media attention. On the 28th of November 2018 Balule issued a statement:

“We wish to express deep regret that visitors to the reserve had to endure a harrowing and traumatising incident in which an elephant was shot by hunters near the lodge that visitors were staying at.  We apologize profusely and unreservedly to those affected.

Based on witness accounts gathered to date, this incident seems not to comply with the sustainable utilisation model of ethical hunting in accordance with the hunting protocol that governs all reserves within the Associated Private Nature Reserves to which Balule and hence Maseke are bound.”

The incident took place on the 23rd November, a young elephant bull was shot 13 times in front of our eye-witnesses standing on a viewing deck overlooking Balule’s Maseke Game Reserve where the hunt took place. The eye witnesses disputed the findings of the investigation

In August of the same year, again in Balule, a collared male elephant aged between 20 and 30 years with tusks of 30 pounds each was shot and killed illegally.  Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Authority laid criminal charges against the culprit. Frikkie Kotze pleaded guilty to the charges and was fined five years in prison or R50 000.00 both suspended for five years.  He had to pay Elephants Alive R35000.00 to replace the collar.   The hunting party consisted of Kotze, the professional hunter and outfitter JJ Horn, the client and his wife. 

The reason that this hunt was illegal was because the permit for this hunt was issued by the Limpopo Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism known as LEDET, whose mission it is to create and facilitate the development of a competitive economy, sustainable environment and tourism growth, the elephant was killed in the Mpumalanga Province.

The elephant was collared and part of an ongoing research project by Elephants Alive!  The chairperson of Balule Nature Reserve, Sharon Haussmann, stated that she was determined to stamp out illegal activities and actions that breach accepted protocol. 

Balule Private Nature Reserve was in the global headline news once more when in 2019 the People for the Ethical Treatment  of Animals PETA published the facts about Aaron Raby who killed an elephant on the 5th December 2019 there.  The elephant suffered a cruel, needlessly prolonged and inarguably painful death. 

Hunting of iconic wild animals in the APNR’s has a negative effect on South Africa’s conservation reputation, on eco-tourism and on Brand South Africa.  The problem with simplistic analyses supporting hunting is that they fail to recognise that trophy hunting and non-consumptive ecotourism are increasingly mutually exclusive. Moreover, the training and so-called qualifications of professional hunters is of an extremely low standard with provincial legislation accepts a training certificate from a 10-day course as the minimum standard.

The EMS Foundation believes that an immediate moratorium on trophy hunting in the APNR reserves should be imposed while: 

  1. policy is being developed
  2. a review and feasibility of the agreement between SANParks and the APNR and all relevant protocols is undertaken and the public given an opportunity to participate meaningfully in all these processes. 

©The EMS Foundation 2021. All Rights Reserved.




28TH JULY 2021


Please read the full submission:

Concluding Comments of the EMS Foundation and Wild Law Institute DFFE Submission:

Humanity has overstepped the planetary boundary in respect of biological diversity and consequently has entered a “danger zone” where it will be negatively affected by sudden events (e.g. pandemics) and irreversible changes. Part of the reason is that we have collectively failed to value the ecological systems (and the individuals that comprise them) on which our survival ultimately depends.

Instead of conserving that which has been entrusted to us, we have over-exploited terrestrial and marine ecosystems. The trade, sale and hunting of South Africa’s wild animals is driven by commodification, commercialisation and profit rather than by robust science, ethics or compassion. The threats wild animals are facing are powerfully linked to South Africa’s current conservation policies of consumptive use and inadequate policing and enforcement measures. A fundamental paradigm shift is required if we are to stem the rapid decline in biodiversity.

We are of the view that a new approach to human beings’ relationship with nature is not only warranted, but is absolutely critical. Current legal frameworks are not succeeding in stemming the tide of rapid biodiversity decline. What is required is a complete overhaul of the legal and administrative system, and a change in the relationship between people and Nature. It is with this paradigm shift in mind that the Draft Policy must be developed.



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