Blogging About Critters Since 2007

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

South Africa's Growing Elephant Industry

There seems to be an industry for everything. In South Africa, now there's an industry for captive elephants.

The department of environmental affairs and tourism will publish a new set of norms and standards on Monday that is intended to control South Africa's burgeoning captive-elephant tourism industry.

There are at least 112 elephants in captivity in South Africa, of which 92 are used to give rides to tourists, or otherwise interact with them. Fourteen captive elephants are in circuses or the film industry, and six are in zoos.

Representatives of elephant owners and trainers have argued that the industry should be allowed to regulate itself and that the training of elephants for human interaction is not cruel.

Those opposed to the industry say that keeping elephants in captivity and training them to interact with humans on command requires both the physical and the mental domination of the animals, and that the imposition of this dominance necessarily involves cruelty.

At a public meeting in October, Greg Vogt, the spokesman for the Elephant Trainers' Association, told the department that his organisation had drawn up its own set of norms and standards and that no other monitoring or regulation was necessary.

He said captive-elephant tourist industry did not believe that animal rights or animal welfare organisations, or anyone not involved in the industry, should have a say about how elephant owners or trainers treated "their" elephants.

A range of NGOs and individuals - including Animal Rights Africa, Public Watch, the National SPCA and the International Fund for Animal Welfare - have taken part in the review of the exploitation of captive elephants, most of them calling for the industry to be shut down or far more rigorously monitored.

Photo by flucoid.

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