Knysna Elephant Parks Response to Abuse Allegations

This press statement is being put out by the Knysna Elephant Park [“KEP”] and Elephants of Eden [“EOE”] in response to Facebook entries on the NSPCA Facebook Site and disseminated by the NSPCA to the various news stations and probably newspapers as well.


Before the entry was placed on the NSPCA Facebook Site, and further published to the various media bodies, neither the NSPCA nor any of the news station / newspapers ever asking for a comment from KEP, EOE or any of its employees.

The information received by the NSPCA is the second lot of information that is being published by the NSPCA and received from extremely dubious sources, being an ex – employee and a party who is involved in liquidation proceedings and who is in fact the more direct cause of the terrible mistreatment to the elephant that is now, quite correctly, the cause of the current uproar in the press.

In neither of these cases did the NSPCA verify the information received and has just proceeded to publish what they would like to believe is the truth.

In order for this press report to make full sense, it is imperative that the reader be fully aware of certain relevant background facts.

EOE used to run its business in Alexandria in the Eastern Cape, where the ill treatment of these elephant took place in 2008, whilst KEP which is situated in Plettenberg Bay.

EOE sold three bull elephants to Mr Gerhard Van Rooyen of Indalu Safaris, Mossel Bay in or about 2008. Thereafter a further three elephant cows were also to be sold to Mr. Gerhard Van Rooyen and all six elephants were delivered to Indalu Safaris. The latter three elephants were never paid for by Mr. Gerhard Van Rooyen, despite numerous undertakings by Mr. Gerhard Van Rooyen, and so ownership of these latter three elephants never passed. In order to train all six of these elephants, Mr. Gerhard Van Rooyen concluded an agreement with EOE in terms of which EOE would house and feed these elephants, whilst training Mr. Gerhard Van Rooyen’s brother [Mr. Sias Van Rooyen] and their intended staff of elephant handlers on how to handle these elephants.

The photographs published by the NSPCA were in fact taken by Mr. Sias Van Rooyen himself, who had been on leave before returning to EOE and discovering the mistreatment of these elephant by Mr. Gerhard Van Rooyen’s staff. The staff who are photographed in these photos are all the staff of Mr. Gerhard Van Rooyen, and are in fact still employed by him at Indalu Safaris in Mossel Bay. They are not the staff of EOE or KEP.

Mr. Gerhard Van Rooyen is currently involved in liquidation proceedings, believed to be personally and in respect of all his various legal entities, once the Liquidator has been authorised to lift the corporate veil and is refusing to return the elephant not paid for to KEP.

All the above facts can be proved and verified by EOE and are all known to Mr. Gerhard Van Rooyen who is, with all respect, purely being malicious by publishing alleged facts that he knows are not entirely true and by using photographs “stolen” off Mr. Sias Van Rooyen’s computer who took them to prove what Mr. Gerhard Van Rooyen’s handlers had done to the elephant whilst he [Mr. Sias Van Rooyen] had been on leave. Mr. Gerhard Van Rooyen knows exactly that these elephants were mistreated in 2008 and that his staff were included in the ill – treatment of the elephants , but clearly chose not to be totally open about the incident and the facts known to him. This is because there is an application to get the elephant on Indalu back to KEP and he is using these twisted facts to try and oppose this move.

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. 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 some 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 [6] 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.

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