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Information provided by: NSPCA

The National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) has laid animal cruelty charges against Elephants of Eden, the Knysna Elephant Park, their directors and management including Lizette Withers, in terms of the Animals Protection Act, 71 of 1962 for cruelty to elephants.

This proved necessary after the NSPCA received horrific footage depicting the cruel and abusive training methods employed to control and train baby and young elephants for their future, captive lives in the elephant-based tourist industry.


Wendy Willson, National NSPCA Inspector, has stated that the footage shows elephant calves and juvenile elephants being chained, roped and stretched, shocked with electric cattle prods and hit with bull hooks – all methods used to force these gentle giants to submit to the will of their trainers and handlers. “The elephants show signs of crippling injuries with severely swollen legs and feet, debilitating abscesses and wounds resulting from the abusive use of ropes, chains, and bull hooks. The calculated and premeditated cruelty of this nature that took place at this facility is a far cry from the loving sanctuary image that Elephants of Eden/Knysna Elephant Park like to portray,” continued Willson.

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The footage was taken on the premises of Elephants of Eden situated in the Eastern Cape – a property defined as a safe haven for elephants and owned by the same entities who own the Knysna Elephant Park. The facility and its remaining elephants have recently been moved to the Western Cape to join the Knysna Elephant Park.

In simple terms; due to the size, intelligence and nature of elephants, training most often takes place through domination, and the breaking of the elephant’s spirit. In order to dominate or force one’s will onto an animal such as the elephant, force needs to be applied and thus is a recipe for abuse. The footage is proof of this.


A growing number of people in South Africa and around the world have suffered severe and fatal injuries as a result of the rebellion of trained elephants kept in captivity. Elephants of Eden and the Knysna Elephant Park are no exceptions: – at these facilities two elephant handlers have been killed and others have been seriously injured. The most recent case occurred in 2011.

The captive elephant interaction industry is a form of tourism driven by greed and without any conservation benefit. Additionally, no dedicated laws exist in South Africa to govern methods used in handling or training elephants for interaction tourism, and trainers and handlers do not require any formal training or education to be able to work with or handle elephants.

At a recent inspection of the Knysna Elephant Park, even though the NSPCA had a warrant to inspect the premises, we were denied entry by Lizette Withers. We were obliged to obtain assistance from the police in order to effect the warrant. Ms Withers only permitted entry when she was advised that her persistent refusal would lead to her arrest. A charge of obstruction has also been laid against Ms Withers.

The NSPCA subscribes to the credo that “wild animals belong in the wild” and is opposed to the removal of elephants from the wild for domestication purposes. We believe that elephants should not be trained, kept in captivity and/or used for entertainment.

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