NSPCA’s legal action centres on elephants believed to be progeny of Tuli survivors
AFTER reaching an impasse with three conservation authorities in a bid to secure the release of four wild elephant calves from a commercial elephant-back safari operator and her business, the NSPCA has brought legal action against all five parties.
The case is reminiscent of the Tuli elephant affair of 1998, when the NSPCA took action against deceased animal trader Riccardo Giazza and others for kidnapping 30 baby elephants from Botswana. The wild calves at risk are believed to be progeny of the Tuli Block survivors.
This development has Knysna Elephant Park owner Lisette Gertrude Withers as defendant number one in a bitter tug-of-war with the animal welfare watchdog.
Papers lodged in the Grahamstown division of the High Court show the NSPCA, as the lone plaintiff, has brought the action against Withers and four other respondents under the Animals Protection Act (Act 71 of 1962). Co-defendants are Elephants of Eden CC, the Eastern Cape department of Economic Development and Environmental Affairs and Tourism, the North West department of Environment, Conservation and Tourism, and the national department of Environmental Affairs.
NSPCA attorney Michal Johnson confirmed she had received notices of intention to defend from Withers and Elephants of Eden, and was awaiting notices from others.
A Weekend Argus probe last year revealed alleged irregularities around the issuing of Withers’s import permit by Eastern Cape authorities and the issuing of a transport permit and hunting permits to five hunters to shoot the baby elephants’ mothers by the North West Environment and Conservation department.
Wild elephants are a protected species governed by Threatened or Protected Species Act (Tops) regulations and Nemba (National Environmental Biodiversity Act).
Johnson said the NSPCA disputed that the permits were compliant, maintaining that the Eastern Cape government should have instructed an environmental management inspector in terms of the National Environmental Management Act in respect of the society’s concerns.
Elephants of Eden, a rehabilitation centre where some of Withers’s “disorderly” elephants were sent after reportedly killing and severely
injuring handlers at Knysna Elephant Park, has served as a halfway house and training ground for elephants.