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Court applicants want confinement of elephants at Joburg zoo declared unlawful, unconstitutional

Activists want elephants Lammie, Mopane and Ramadiba to be released from the Johannesburg Zoo. Picture: Supplied

Activists want elephants Lammie, Mopane and Ramadiba to be released from the Johannesburg Zoo. Picture: Supplied

Published Jun 28, 2022

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Pretoria - The City of Joburg said it was ready to oppose the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, application for the removal of three elephants currently at the Johannesburg Zoo.

The applicants are Animal Law Reform SA, EMS Foundation and Chief Stephen Fritz, who want three elephants, Lammie, Mopane and Ramadiba, released from the zoo.

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They want the continued confinement of the elephants at the zoo to be declared unlawful and unconstitutional, and that the decision to continue to keep the elephants in captivity at the zoo be reviewed and set aside.

They are asking in the alternative that the elephants be released into a suitable and appropriate re-wilding facility. According to them, the elephants are being held in conditions unsuited to their basic needs.

EMS Foundation executive director Michele Pickover said colonialism and apartheid devastated South Africa and disrupted indigenous communities, decimating biodiversity and destroying individual lives.

“These elephants were cruelly separated from their families, deliberately captured by humans for a life in captivity − experiencing lifelong trauma as a result. In captivity, elephants have no agency. They have been removed from their context and live unnatural, isolated and denigrated lives.

“An elephant in a zoo is simply an exhibit, deprived of natural environment and social conditions. We are failing to teach children anything about elephants – rather forcing them into submission for the sake of so-called human entertainment."

Pickover said a better exhibit would be a live link to the elephants living out their lives in a natural environment.

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Pickover added: “The elephants are housed in a barren enclosure under conditions which fall far short of meeting their fundamental needs.”

Chief Stephen Fritz, a community leader and the third applicant in the matter, said imprisoning the sacred elephants showcased the past and the present will to humiliate and disrespect culture and heritage.

“For many years, I have felt ashamed and powerless. I am, therefore, relieved that a large number of experts and scientists have united, bringing together a wealth of knowledge to offer these elephants a powerful defence.”

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In response, the metro and its entity, Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo, said the matter would be defended. “The Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo herewith confirms and wishes to assure the public at large that the elephants are well, and their best interests are and remain our focus; staff is caring for the elephants.

“We had this recently confirmed by independent experts, and accordingly the elephants, will not be relocated or traumatised in any other manner in the foreseen future.”

Pretoria News

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