FOUR PAWS / ZNSPCA / NSPCA successfully relocate afflicted elephant herd in Zimbabwe
November 13, 2009 - International animal welfare organization FOUR PAWS, ZNSPCA and NSPCA, through their joint efforts, have successfully rehabilitated, relocated and released a group of nine elephants into Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park. The endangered animals had been caught illegally and kept under atrocious conditions for months, leading to the death of a young elephant bull this summer.
In August, a FOUR PAWS unit from South African lion sanctuary LIONSROCK assumed responsibility for the rehabilitation of the elephants, whose rescue and therapy had been initiated by the ZNSPCA into whose care the elephants had been placed by the Minister of Environment & Natural Resources. The move to Hwange National Park marks the happy ending of an extremely difficult mission. One of the elephants, Mary, has her very own happy ending ahead: She is pregnant and will give birth in freedom.
The elephants had been rescued from the tourism industry, where they had been trained for elephant-back safaris through the use of shockingly cruel methods after brutally being taken away from their mothers. Apart from the atrocious “education”, they had to endure dehydration and malnutrition. They were only given food and water when they behaved according to what their “trainers” wanted. The primary aim being to break the elephants’ spirits. After the rescue, the experienced team of FOUR PAWS and the ZNSPCA Inspectors slowly started to gain the trust of the 9 traumatized elephants. Not only the physical injuries, but also their souls were healed during the three months of mentored recovery. The elephants were ready to lead a normal life again.
Then the big day came: On November 3rd they were finally released into freedom. The herd was relocated to Hwange National Park, where they no longer have to fear human harm. This National Park is, however, 500 kilometers away from the site near West Nicholson where the elephants were being treated by FOUR PAWS and protected by ZNSPCA.
Big trucks were arranged to drive the elephants to the National Park. After days of preparation, the animals were sedated in order to be led to the trucks. There they were given an antidote – they experienced the journey awake and standing. The spectacular relocation started on November 2nd, 10 pm, and lasted until 6 am the following day. At 8.30 am the elephants were released – the final leg of their long walk to freedom was over.
The elephants originated from two different herds– during rehabilitation they formed one herd. Female “Mary”, whose baby is due in about 11 months, assumed the role of matriarch to the group. Mary is wearing a GPS/VHF-Collar around her neck. In co-operation with the Park authorities, staff of FOUR PAWS will continue to watch the elephant’s physical and social development in freedom for at least another year. Helmut Dungler, founder and CEO of FOUR PAWS, explains: “We want to make sure that they stay healthy and that their social behavior stabilizes. During the course of rehabilitation they have become much less aggressive.” He was also in Zimbabwe and helped with the transport of the animals: “The whole process was very impressive and emotional for all of us, it is wonderful to watch the elephants find their way back to nature. But the most touching of all is that Mary will be one of the few elephants who will give birth in freedom after she was abused by human hands.”
“The NSPCA was happy to play a part in securing the freedom of these elephants. Lessons, however, need to be learned from this incident – wild animals belong in the wild and should not be kept captive in circuses, zoos and safari situations,” said Marcelle Meredith, Executive Director of the NSPCA.
Despite incorrect information that emerged at the end of last week in the press that the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) were rescuing 9 elephants from abuse, all activities - rescue, rehabilitation and release - were carried out by staff of FOUR PAWS, the ZNSPCA and the NSPCA. Such opportunistic claims nearly cost these 9 elephants their right to be returned to a life in the wild.
A team from Carte Blanche joined FOUR PAWS and the NSPCA from 01st till 4th and will broadcast the story on Sunday evening 15 November 2009.
A special appeal goes out to the public to support the painstaking work that was done to care for these animals over the last months and the long journey that must still be walked together in the wild with these animals.
Public support is vital and both FOUR PAWS and NSPCA appeal for support to raise R1 500 000 for securing the future of these animals.
It cost over a million rand to unchain this family and return them to freedom. We need to recuperate the money to help others – to make a donation please use these bank details.
Name: FOUR PAWS Animal Welfare Foundation
Bank: FIRST NATIONAL BANK
Account No: 62139547759
Branch Code: 230133
Deposit ref: JOURNEY TO FREEDOM
FOUR PAWS contact
Telephone: +27 (0)83 408 0463
Landline:+27 (0)58 304-3890