Animal cruelty charges have been laid against Elephants of Eden, the Knysna Elephant Park, their directors and management, by The National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) following the release of a video showing the training methods used to get elephants ready for ‘elephant safaris.’
According to ENCA:
The Knysna Elephant Park, part of the Elephants of Eden group before it moved from the Eastern Cape to Knysna, offers visitors a range of experiences with elephants – from close encounters (their ‘Be Touched by an Elephant tour) to exclusive walks, rides and even a sleepover with elephants.
The park is owned by Lisette and Ian Withers, who claim on their website that the training done with their elephants is extremely gentle, born out of growing trust between each animal and its handler.
But it looks like that is all a front, after a video, in possession of the NSPCA, reveals the torturous methods used to break the spirit of the elephants in their care. Cruel methods ‘”to control and train baby and young elephants for their future, captive lives in the elephant-based tourist industry.”
But Lisette Withers is firm in that there are two sides to this story:
“The NSPCA has laid animal cruelty charges against Elephants of Eden, the Knysna Elephant Park,their directors and management including Lisette Withers, in terms of the Animals Protection Act, 71 of 1962 for cruelty to elephants,” animal inspector Wendy Willson announced.
The NSPCA posted photographs of the abuse on Monday morning. Lisette Withers said the of the allegations that the NSPCA are only interested in sensationalism and money,
”They are stealing every old woman’s pension money. I despise them, they set things up and act like watchdogs, they think they are Gods,” said Withers.
Willson said the NSPCA was in possession of “horrific footage” depicting the cruel and abusive training methods employed to control and train baby and young elephants for captive lives in the elephant-based tourist industry.
Withers has admitted that the incident did take place at the Elephants of Eden in Alexandria in 2008 but she was unaware of it until two weeks later. “We healed the elephants and got rid of staff involved,” said Withers.
“My staff apologized for their cruelty but said the spirits told them to do it,” said Withers.
According to Willson, the footage – which she has declined to release because it will form the basis of their court case, although she has given out still pictures with faces blurred – shows young elephants being chained, roped and stretched.
Stretching, she said, was a training method in which elephants had ropes and chains attached to their front and back legs as winches and vehicles were used to then stretch them out into an extremely uncomfortable position.
“The elephant quickly becomes extremely exhausted and collapses, and that is how they teach them to go down,” Willson said, explaining that elephants obediently going down was necessary for the elephant ride attractions on offer.
On top of this, Willson said the NSPCA had added proof that the elephants were also shocked with electric cattle prods and hit with bull hooks – a stick with a sharp end and a hook on the side, used to strike the animal on its most sensitive spots such as behind the ear.
The story goes on, you can read it here if you can stomach it.
We hope that it is an old story, as Withers claims. But if the NSPCA prove that it is not old and that it is currently happening, we hope the elephants are moved to a place of safety and that the perpetrators are punished within the full extent of the law. And then some.
Gallery below of the abuse, as detailed by the NSPCA.
Check out the Knysna Elephant Park official website HERE.
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