Elephants breaking through a fenced barrier – Photo credit: Lauren Evans


Any citizen in South Africa and abroad is allowed to submit a formal comment to the Draft Norms and Standards for the Management of Elephants.

Any submission must be received by December the 2nd 2018

You can use our SAMPLE LETTER as a guideline, here below, in any part and/or add your personal comments.

Please find the original Draft Normative following the link of the Gazette, here the LINK 

Specify what your interest as a stakeholder is:

Conservationist/ Environmentalist/ Tourist/ Photographer/ Organization/ Journalist/ Blogger/ Local/ Private individual.

Send your comment to: elephantnorms@environment.gov.za




The Director -General

Department of Environmental Affairs

Attention: Mr Khuthadzo Mahamba

Private Bag X447 


Att: Mr Khuthadzo Mahamba



RE: Public Comment to Draft Amendments to the Norms and Standards for the Management of Elephants in South Africa, 2008, published under Government Notice No. 251 in the Government Gazette No. 30833 of 29 February 2008.

Dear Mr Mahamba.

We would like to formally submit our comments and objections regarding the Draft Amendment to the Norms and Standards (N&S).

Specific Comments:

Chapter 1


At page 8, paragraph 1, “Adaptive Management”:

Any “Management” should always include the “Precautionary Principle”. The Precautionary Principle enables decision-makers to adopt precautionary measures when scientific evidence about an environmental or human health hazard is uncertain and the stakes are high. Also, the “Adaptive Management” definition in this N&S does not suggest the obligation to collect scientific data before any invasive action.

We object to the definition of “Adaptive Management” and request to include the above.

At page 18, “Guiding Principles”:

We would like the following principles to be added to the N&S:

(f) Humane measures must be taken to limit threats to the eco-systems and the well-being of people.

(J) Where lethal measures are necessary to manage an elephant or group of elephants, in extreme circumstances, these must be undertaken only after all other alternatives as specified in Annexure VI of this document, have been already implemented, with no results, and documented.

Chapter 2

General Provisions: Temporary Captivity of Wild Elephants

Page 20, Paragraph 5 (1) (2) (c):

For us, there is no reason to keep in captivity (even temporary) a wild elephant if not for rehabilitating it when injured or sick or if is a genuine orphaned elephant, as specified in point (d):  therefore point (c) is to remove.

Management Plans

Page 22, Paragraph 6, [(2) (i) The area of the enclosure.

It is necessary to specify the minimum size recommended for both enclosure and covered shelter, including the minimum height of the ceiling.

International standard recommendations suggest that the indoor shelter minimum size should be 50 sq. m per elephant with minimum high of 6 m.

Outdoor minimum space should be 8000 sqm for a minimum of 4 elephants.

Page 22, Paragraph 6 [(2) (h) Culling of Captive Elephants

For us, no culling plan should be necessary in captivity. Alternative form of prevention and humane management of the population are available to maintain under control a limited population as in the case of captive elephants.

Page 24, Paragraph 8, Permits

An approved management plan must be reviewed every 3 years and not every 10 years as proposed in the Draft N&R.

Page 27, Paragraph 10, (2) Scientific Research:

Every scientific project should be designed and approved by the competent authority. Also it is very important to clarify in legislation the limits of non-invasive research on elephants, avoiding vague definitions which leave space to free interpretation. For example it should be clearly stated which strategies and devices are:

1 – Permitted,

2- Restricted,

3- Prohibited.

Other issues to be considered for both captive and wild elephants, include:

The capture procedures

The minimizing of the handling

The competent use of drugs and anaesthetics to prevent distress

The limited application of suitable and non-invasive temporary devices which must not interfere with the animal lifestyle, movability and agility and, except specific cases, must have a functional drop-off, tear-off system.

The implementation of the most suitable transportation non-invasive techniques, when necessary.

The housing.

The publishing of non-technical summaries and experiences. This is crucial to avoid study repetition; sharing data and resources and results, preferably in free access format should be compulsory.

Samples should be taken with no invasive strategies, including hair/ saliva/ dropping analysis, while the use of body-part samples should be prohibited and the removal of specific parts only permitted to save the life of the animal when injured or sick.

We would like to add to the Management Plan for Captive Elephants the following:

It is a global trend to consider more and more ethically unacceptable the trading of highly intelligent animals like elephants. The implications in separating individuals from the herd and their consequent long term trauma, the difficulty to breed elephants in captivity, the poaching associated to legal trading of elephant parts, makes trading a very controversial practice. Neither wild or captive elephants, nor their body parts, should ever be sold/traded, in any circumstance.

In addition, in all sort of captive facilities, specific regulation should be applied for the well-being of such complex animals. Such parameters should be clearly be indicated and included in any captive elephant management plan, including:

  1. Permanent form of enrichment must be provided including solid structures for elephants to scratch onto, thereby maintaining healthy skin. Other structures must be introduced for pushing, pulling, shoving, throwing, climbing, rubbing, and manipulating. To facilitate frequent replacement of natural furniture and make other repairs easier, the enclosure must be accessible to trucks, skid loaders, backhoes, and other large pieces of equipment.
  2. A list of such enrichment must be included in the plan and approved.
  3. Regular check of structures must be planned to prevent injuries caused by broken structures
  4. Security pits and fences must not represent a hazard for adult elephants and babies
  5. The enclosure must include water features (pools – minimum size to specify including depth which must not be dangerous for calves and large enough for comfortable bathing/skin care, thermoregulation/ and sprinklers/misters, also for thermoregulation).
  6. The enclosure must include a sand pit for sand bathing
  7. The enclosure must include shade structures
  8. The captive facility must include in its Management Plan a detail Evacuation Plan to apply in case of fire, flood or emergency or natural disaster.
  9. Every Management Plan must contain an emergency Sedation and/ or Capture strategy.
  10. No programmed breeding should be allowed for elephants in captivity. Only rescued exemplars which are permanently damaged and cannot return to the wild should be kept in captivity.
  11.  For such intelligent and complex animals, captivity should be considered an emergency measure only and this should be specified in wording in these N&S.
  12. Due to the complex social structure of elephants, in the wild as well as in captivity, the presence of other elephants is one of the most effective forms of enrichment possible. No solitary elephants should remain in captivity. Elephants should be kept in groups and in case of death of members, solitary survivors should be retired to a sanctuary. Furthermore, all captive elephants should retire to a sanctuary with suitable social environment and away from human vicinity or interaction, at least once reached the age of 40 or earlier, if their state of health declines for whatever reason or if the elephant displays visible sign of suffering and stress, like repeating movements or rocking.
  13. The plan must include euthanasia only in case of incurable disease or injury or to interrupt inevitable suffering.
  14. A dietary plan, approved by a veterinary, must be presented. This must include food to be manipulated, moved and stripped off the bark.
  15.  Enclosures must be regularly maintained and kept clean from dirt and faeces.
  16.  The Enclosure should be far from disturbances.
  17.  The facility should be inspected by an external recognized authority (NSPCA) non less that every two years, in order to verify the continuity of standards of maintenance.
  18. Any elephant owner should have an insurance which also covers any possible damage caused by the elephants.
  19. Any application for keeping captive elephants should include a detailed project for the positive, constructive and continuous involvement of members of at least one local community surrounding the area. Such project should be promoting education, the economic growth and develop of such community, should aim at increasing skills and knowledge about eco-tourism opportunities and businesses.    

Lammie – Photo credit: Ban Animal Trading


The Johannesburg Zoo has been recently criticized tor not wanting to release Lammie into a sanctuary willing to take her, after the premature death of her lifetime companion Kinkel. – Photo credit: Johannesburg zoo


Duty of Care

Page 25, Paragraph 8, (2) (c) Humane Management:

When the elephants are altering the habitat beyond acceptable limits humane intervention should be applied in several steps as suggested in Annexure VI of these N&S.

Capture of Elephants

Page 27, Paragraph (11) (i), Rehabilitation

The capture of a wild elephant and its temporary captivity should be permitted only in case of injury/disease/rehabilitation or in case of a genuine orphaned calf. Temporary captivity should not substantially exceed the rehabilitation period.

Pag 28, Paragraph [(3) Wild Elephants

We object to this paragraph. In no circumstances a healthy wild elephants of any age, should be captured to be kept in captivity, neither for international agreements, nor for scientific or research purposes. This paragraph should be completely removed, as well as Paragraph 11 (1) (b) and (b)(i).

Translocation, Import and export of Elephants

Pag 29, Paragraph 12, (1) (a) and (d). Wild Elephants

We object to this point since, excluding permanently damaged wild elephants who cannot be reintroduced into the wild, no exemplars should be translocated to be kept in captivity in a captive facility for whatever purpose of exhibition, international agreements, international exchange programs and scientific research.

Pag 29, Paragraph 12, (2) (ii) Calves

We object to this point since it is not ideal to translocate a two months old calf; the minimum age recommended for translocation and release should not be less than 1 year and a half.

Pag 30, Paragraph 12, (5) Circus

There is a worldwide movement against the use of elephants and other highly intelligent animals in circuses and other similar form of entertainment and performances. We object to this point and suggest that the import of elephants to use in circuses of similar displays should be forbidden.

Elephants are severely abused and forced to display totally unnatural behavior in Circus performances – Photo credit unknown


Elephant behind the scenes – Photo credit: Peta


To add to this N&R:

The education regarding these iconic animals which are part of our culture and heritage is crucial. The use of elephants in local or international circuses for performing in South Africa is a contradiction. In terms of education, enslaving iconic animals should strongly be avoided and therefore forbidden. Other forms of entertainment, interaction and environmental education should be developed; we suggest to support the emerging use of holograms for such scope.

Management of Elephants in the Wild


We object to this section since it lacks of a clear distinction between Private Properties / Hunting Properties / National Parks and Protected Areas. We object to any form of culling and hunting inside protected areas, as proposed at page 32, paragraph 15(1)(v) and (vi).  Allowing such practices would be devastating for a country which aspire to place itself as a leading eco-tourism attraction worldwide.

Culling wild elephants in all areas should be an extreme procedure to apply only after all the other options in annexure VI have been unsuccessfully implemented and documented, not simply and theoretically “evaluated” as suggested at pag 36, Paragraph 19 (1) (a).


Page 38, Paragraph 20, (1)(a). Males

We object to the (trophy) hunting of solitary males since point (a) does not indicate any specific reason for such hunting and does not specify any restriction of age, health, tusk size, relation to the surrounding eco-system and social relevance.

Page 38, Paragraph 20, (1)(b) and (c). Females, Problem Animals

We object to the (trophy) hunting of females since they are always socially interconnected with the rest of the herd and removing one exemplar is detrimental and not advisable as specified in the Guiding Principles of this N&S at page 18, Paragraph 3.

Damage-causing exemplars must cause repeated and documented damages and must represent an immediate threat to the eco-system or to humans.  The non-commercial removal of such damage-causing exemplar must be permitted only after all other management strategies have been unsuccessfully applied and documented.

Regular hunting permits and the identity of each hunted animal should be verified at the end of each hunt by a veterinarian on site. Permits and compulsory hunt reports, being public documents, should not be considered confidential.

We object to section “Purpose and Application”, page 17, paragraph [(2)](1)(a)(v) and the sustainable use of  elephant body parts linked to trophy hunting. Trophy Hunting has been multiple times indicated as a Not Ecologically Sustainable Strategy for targeting the larger or dominant exemplars, concept which is in contradiction with ecology and natural principles.   

From the social point of view, the practice of Trophy Hunting does not connect to the African culture and the division between the indigenous culture of hunting for food and, on the other side, the colonial heritage and culture of hunting for power and supremacy has been indicated as one of the major factors fuelling poaching of iconic animals in South Africa. African communities feel depredated of their heritage and resources for the good of a few rich foreigners. The revenues generated by such hunts don`t effectively reach these communities, nor any other benefit.  The South African government should finally address this issue which has been increasingly exposed by researchers and conservationists.

Escaped or Roaming Elephants

  1. Except in the case of threatening scenarios like fires, natural disasters, prolonged droughts, extensive poaching or other emergencies, elephants must be prevented from escaping and roaming out of their areas.
  2. Elephants from a protected area should not be hunted or commercially exploited, once  out of their protected area.
  3. Protected areas should be properly fenced to avoid uncontrolled roaming of individuals or herds of elephants.
  4. Roaming elephants should not be destroyed except if  repeatedly escaping and aggression or repeated damage has been reported and documented and if they pose an immediate threat to humans or human activities.
  5. Body parts of destroyed animals should not be sold or used for commercial purposes but rather used in research.
  6. A migrating elephant must not be prevented from naturally roaming back into its original area.

Best regards,