This is a press release issued by Knysna Elephant Park (for further context, please refer to the previous blog on this site, ‘Were Elephants Tortured in Knysna?’):
With these relevant facts now known to the reader, and in order to provide some clarification to the allegations published by the NSPCA, the Knysna Elephant Park issues the following further factual statement regarding this terrible event that they discovered six years ago:
- This incident took place in 2008.
- The elephants in question were only housed and fed at Elephants of Eden, not the Knysna Elephant Park.
- Some of these elephants were owned by a Mr Gerhard van Rooyen, not by Knysna Elephant Park.
- During this time, Mr. Gerhard van Rooyen had employed his brother [Mr. Sias Van Rooyen] as elephant manager, under the guidance of the then KEP General Manager, Mr Greg Vogt [ed: Vogt is currently Chairman of the Board of Knysna Tourism]. There were also a number of elephant handlers employed by Mr. Gerhard Van Rooyen who lived at EOE and were also being trained by the EOE staff.
- It was at about this same time that the head handler at EOE had climbed into an elephant camp, on his own and when he was not supposed to be there. One of the elephants got hold of him and killed him.
- Some weeks later, Mr Sias van Rooyen had taken leave and whilst he was away, and there was no other senior management at EOE, the handlers decided to teach the elephants a lesson because, as they stated on enquiry, that the “guide that had been killed, his spirit told them to do so”. These beatings caused the wounds depicted in the photographs.
- Once this abuse was discovered by the EOE management, immediate emergency actions were taken to remove the elephants from an unsafe environment and brought to Knysna Elephant Park and the EOE staff were immediately dealt with.
- At the Knysna Elephant Park these traumatised elephant received specialised veterinary care and a safe environment in which to recover. They were under constant monitoring and specialised staff worked long and hard to rehabilitate them as quickly as possible.
- At the time, action was taken against all EOE staff, with two of their handlers being dismissed after following the correct labour procedures. EOE could not, for obvious reasons, take disciplinary action against the guilty staff of Mr. Gerhard Van Rooyen and this was left for him to deal with. Mr. Gerhard Van Rooyen elected to do absolutely nothing about the actions of his staff and the guilty staff members involved remain in the employed of Mr Gerhard van Rooyen and still look after the six elephants at Indalu with the disgruntled ex – staff member of EOE.
- Mr van Rooyen, owner of Indalu Game Reserve, is currently involved in a legal liquidation process with the estate being handled by the Sheriffs. Six elephants are included in the assets of the liquidated estate, of which three belong to the Knysna Elephant Park.
- It is our understanding that the elephant handlers that were involved in this case of elephant abuse are still employed to ‘care for’ the elephants at Indalu Game Reserve.
- Knysna Elephant Park recently applied to the courts for permission to relocate the 6 elephants that are currently held at Indalu Game Reserve as we are concerned for the welfare of these elephants and Indalu’s ability to care for them.
- In a sworn affidavit by the NSPCA, submitted with regard to this application, the NSPCA express their support that these six  elephants remain at Indalu under the care of the very same staff that is at the centre of this abuse charge.
Under these circumstances EOE and KEP question the judgement and motivation of the NSPCA who have actually indicated under oath [Wendy Anella Wilson], in a statement containing certain other false allegations, that they are of the opinion that the six elephants should stay at Indalu, where the guilty elephant handlers still look after them in the future.
KEP remains suspicious of the motivation and timing of these allegations of an incident which happened six years ago.
Why did Mr Gerhard van Rooyen not raise this matter back then, and why did he wait until there is a Court application to remove these elephant, some of which he never ever paid for and belong to KEP?
Instead, now that he stands to lose everything in liquidation proceedings and whilst Mr. Gerhard Van Rooyen is being assisted by the very person at the centre of the previous false NSPCA allegations, [Disgruntled ex-employee, Mr. Greg Vogt, who is currently running a volunteer programme at Indalu Game Reserve and making an income from such source].
The legal adviser for EOE, Mr. F J Fischer of C J Ballan Inc of Knysna, has received the necessary instructions to investigate civil action against the NSPCA and Mr. Gerhard Van Rooyen.
Mike: In less than a day, 700 supporters of KEP have joined their Facebook support page.
I will offer all the main parties involved to present their side in a later blog or blogs.