As momentum and overwhelming public support grow for the release of the orang-utan Opal from the facility of Brian Boswell to sanctuary for her last years at Monkey World in the UK, the National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) in conjunction with the SPCA Kloof and Highway, responds to the statement issued by Brian Boswell on 29 January 2016.

It is emphasised that (contrary to the statement of Mr Boswell) the solitude of Opal has been a contentious issue for many years, this matter having been drawn to the attention of Mr Boswell. Appeals have been made, pointing out the suffering and cruelty taking place at his facility, amply demonstrated by the plight of the sole Orang-utan Opal, alone in her bare enclosure. Therefore the issue/campaign is neither sudden nor a publicity stunt.

It is not correct to state, as Mr Boswell does, that the petition and/or campaign were started by the National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA). Both were initiated by the Kloof and Highway SPCA. This is a relevant point of order in that both these organisations are independently registered and autonomous Non Profit Organisations in South Africa. The NSPCA places on record our support for the petition and campaign as organised and operated by the Kloof and Highway SPCA. We shall be assisting them on this matter and in this case.

It is confirmed that the Facebook page of the Kloof and Highway SPCA does appeal for funds which are stated to be specifically “utilised for the fight to have Opal relocated” and includes the proviso that “if, for some reason we are not successful, all the money will be refunded.”

The Boswell statement makes reference to the release of elephant Thandora in 2013. She had been at the zoo in Bloemfontein for 24 years. After a rehabilitation programme to help her adapt to the wild, Thandora died of a bacterial infection: – botulism poisoning, a condition unrelated to her release. The claim that she died “of questionable causes” is incorrect and therefore misleading and a blatant lie.

It is refuted that Opal “is comfortable in her environment.” The visuals of her isolation, undoubted loneliness and misery are clear for all to see.

The proposed facility in the UK for Opal is confirmed to be Monkey World, not “a breeding facility” as claimed. Acknowledging that when healthy male and female primates are kept together there is always the chance of breeding, this facility employs the following methods of birth control for their non-human primates:

Contraceptive pill
Intrauterine contraceptive device (IUD)
Ovariectomy (surgical removal of the ovaries)
Hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus)

This far from being “a breeding facility.”

Monkey World is not a registered charity. However it is reputable, being supported by the Born Free Foundation, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). Income is generated through donations and its Ape Rescue Trust, asserting that the money is used solely for the rescue and rehabilitation of primates and no administration costs are involved.

The Boswell statement closes by claiming that aspersions are being cast “about a mentally and physically healthy animal for their own financial gain”. Neither the Kloof and Highway SPCA nor the NSPCA have anything to gain by the campaign and publicity. Our concerns relate to our mandate which is in our name: the prevention of cruelty to animals.

It is our contention that caring people who have seen visuals of Opal in her bare enclosure, will appreciate the dire situation in which she has been living and in which she continues to exist, and will support motivation and moves to alleviate this.

A viable alternative has been proposed. We accept that there are no guarantees but our belief is that compassion must prevail.

Mr Boswell has an opportunity to change the situation of Opal for the better. Local and international opinion would overwhelmingly support this. It would not be losing face to come forward and agree to her release. It would be a meaningful gesture that would make such a difference to the welfare of this particular animal and would send a message of hope, care and positivity across the world.

An appeal is made to Mr Boswell to recognise the magnitude of the opportunity and to create a breakthrough. This would be worthy indeed.

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