0205 The 3 month old elephant makes a dash for the bush after a 16 hour journey from the Tukela Biosphere in Kwa-Zulu Natal to San Wild in the Limpopo province. The relocation of the herd of 9 elephants follows threats by local hunters to shoot them. 111106 - Picture: Jennifer Bruce Picture: Jennifer Bruce

Cape Town - Lazing on rolling green lawns, idly walking down dirt pathways and interacting with visitors – this is what the Meerendal Wine Estate has in mind for three elephants from Limpopo.

While the City of Cape Town and CapeNature mull over the historical Durbanville property’s proposal to bring the animals to the Western Cape, the SPCA has criticised the move, branding it “cruel” and “unacceptable”.

“We have strongly recommended against it,” said Bretty Glasby, the Cape of Good Hope SCPA’s wildlife unit manager.

For Deon Adriaanse, former co-owner of the estate who is acting as a consultant for the process, cancelling the move would not only be sad but also a massive loss for elephant research and conservation.

“This is a unique opportunity to reintroduce elephants to the Western Cape,” he said. “But we cannot go through with this until all the boxes have been checked, and that means we want to make sure it is okay with all the parties involved.

“We don’t want any hostility,” he added.

Adriaanse explained that the orphaned and “tamed” elephants – which would be hired from the Elephants For Africa Forever group in Limpopo – would:

* Have the full 220 hectares of the Meerendal property at their disposal.

* Be sheltered at night for their own safety.

* Be of the same sex, eliminating the chance of any aggression as a result of the animals being in musth.

Plans to offer elephant-back riding have been scrapped.

“This much more than just a tourist attraction,” he said. “The money it would bring in is negligible.

“This is about conservation and research; to raise awareness around these animals and look at whether it’s possible to reintroduce them to Tygerberg.”

The last elephants in the area were killed in 1702.

“This is not captivity… But if there are parties who are against it and we can’t find a solution, it will not go ahead,” he repeated.

In a formal response to the city, the National Council of SPCAs outlined several reasons why the proposed move should not be given the green light.

Keeping the elephants on the estate would be of no benefit to the animals by restricting them at night and preventing them from foraging for their own food during the day, said the NSPCA’s wildlife protection unit manager, Ainsley Hay.

He also attacked Meerendal’s plans to have the animals crush grapes.

“How does using elephants as a gimmick and novelty to crush grapes to be used to produce wine enhance the value and dignity of elephants? The only value that is increased is the profit value of this enterprise.”

Hay added that Elephants For Africa Forever’s claim that they provided sanctuary for orphaned and other elephants was “completely false”.

“The elephants in their care were generally not orphaned due to natural causes, but were removed from cull operations to intentionally be used in the elephant-back safari or interaction industry.”

Glasby said elephants were historically beaten and deprived of food and water to “tame” them.

Attempts to contact Elephants For Africa Forever were unsuccessful. - Cape Argus