Domestication of Elephants

The National Council of SPCAs (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.

Further, the NSPCA is opposed to any degree of confinement or the use of any animal in sport, entertainment or exhibition likely to cause distress or suffering or which may adversely affect the animal’s welfare.

As per our inspections in the field, there are currently some 120 elephants (including 4 Asian elephants) kept in captivity for commercial use in South Africa. One of the activities provided by these commercial operations is elephant-back safaris when tourists are given the opportunity to ride on the backs of elephants. Another would be guided walks with elephants which enable tourists to walk with elephants or walk up to them for some interaction such as touching or feeding them. The distribution of these facilities is across the country in eight of the nine provinces with the highest concentration of facilities being in the Western Cape.

Elephants are held captive for what can only be described as entertainment purposes that enrich a select few people. This enrichment to the owner comes at a great cost to the elephants concerned and has no direct or indirect benefit to the conservation of wild free-roaming elephant populations. Nor can it in any way be regarded as an alternative to lethal population control measures.

The public is not privy to the behind-the-scenes training methods used to ‘tame’ wild elephants. All the public see are well-behaved elephants when they experience close up encounters at the various facilities. Training methods often involve the use of chains and the isolation of elephants for the purposes of training.

By paying to ride, walk with or interact with an elephant you are contributing to an extremely unethical and often cruel practice.