ln Hermanus on 6 September, at the Municipal Auditorium, elephant specialists from around Africa and the world participated in a conference, Taking Elephants out of the Room, to begin the process of dealing with issues of their captivity, welfare and the ethics of confining these sentient creatures. The aim was to create a framework within which to assess the ‘imprisonment’ of captive elephants and to set standards for their ethical treatment.
The legendary Ambroseli elephant researcher Dr Joyce Poole discussed who elephants are and why they are not suited for captivity.
conference, organized by the EMS Foundation is the first specifically
discussing the topic of Elephants in
captivity; it follows the Geneva meeting of the Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES),
which ended on Aug 28 and where the trade in live elephants and ivory
sparked off often furious debate.
a historic victory for elephants, a two-third majority of member parties voted
that elephants may not be removed from their wild habitats except under
exceptional circumstances. Extracting elephants from the wild for human
pleasure in zoos is now internationally unacceptable.
are in crisis with at least 20,000 being illegally killed each year for their
ivory. On average around 55 elephants are poached every day in Africa – that’s
roughly one every 26 minutes.
CITES Congress was petitioned by renowned conservationist Jane Goodall as well
as celebrities such as Ricky Gervias, Judi Dench, Brigette Bardot, Pamela
Anderson, Joanna Lumley and Bryan Adams to uphold the ban on the capture of
wild baby African elephants for export to zoos and circuses.
‘hidden’ statistic is the number of elephants being kept in small enclosures or
used for elephant-back rides, a practice that requires cruel treatment using
leg chains and sharp bull-hooks.
Topics under discussion at the Hermanus conference: the importance of neuroscience in elephant conservation; the capture and sale of young elephants in Zimbabwe; the way in which elephants are financially exploited; the state of zoos; the myth of ‘acceptable destinations’ for translocated elephants; problems with sustainable use; welfare and stress in captivity and elephants’ importance in nature.
The conference was opened by Khoisan leader Chief Stephen Fritz and delegates included Dr Joyce Poole of Elephant Voices, Dr Marion Garai and Dr Yolanda Pretorius of the Elephant Specialist Advisory Group, Lenin Chisaira of the Zimbabwe People and Earth Solidarity Law Network, Prof David Bilchitz of Animal Law Reform, Dr Gay Bradshaw of the Kerulos Center for Nonviolence in the USA, Advocate Jim Karani from the High Court of Kenya, conservation biologist Keith Lindsay, elephant reintegration specialist Brett Mitchell and Kenyan animal welfare specialist Kahindi Lekalhaile.
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