News24

Elephant fall: Two taken to Jhb

2007-04-06 17:26

Johannesburg - The middle-aged British couple hurt in a fall from an elephant in Hartbeespoort on Thursday have been transferred to the Sunninghill Hospital in Johannesburg.

Lorna and Michael Denyard, both in their 50s, were transferred "on request", said Craig Saunders, the owner of The Elephant Sanctuary, where the incident occurred.

They had initially been taken to a hospital in Pretoria for specialist treatment, according to ER24 paramedics.

Anthony Govender, who was variously described as the Denyard's custodian and health adviser, refused to provide any information on their well-being.

He said they had given an interview - free of charge - to a freelance British journalist and were "not prepared to deal with this media rubbish right now".

He had been in contact with the British High Commission. "The Denyards have opted not to use British High Commission services at this stage," he said.

Confidentiality agreement

Govender claimed he was bound by a confidentiality agreement with his clients.

He refused to give the name of his employer.

He would not say whether the Denyards planned to continue their holiday in South Africa.

They did not want to "paint the Elephant Sanctuary in a bad light", he said.

It is understood both fractured their left legs. Mr Denyard was also thought to have a broken pelvis.

The incident took place while they were getting on to an African elephant after an awareness programme in which they had touched, fed, talked to the animals, learnt of their behaviour and the problems they faced, particularly culling and contraception, said Saunders.

Not a safari

He emphasised the ride they were to have embarked on was not a safari, but a "walk" in a 20x20m, demarcated and protected enclosure.

They were on the elephant, but as it straightened its front legs and raised its rear-end to stand, Mrs Denyard lost her balance, grabbed her husband sitting in front of her, and they both fell off.

They landed on their left side on a sandy patch, said Saunders.

They had not been seated in howdah (saddle), but on a protective blanket on the elephant's back. The elephant handler did not fall off.

Saunders said this was the first incident of its kind at the sanctuary. He said the elephant involved had been there for eight or nine years.

Tuli elephants

However, it was not one of the 30 maltreated Tuli elephants relocated from a farm at De Rust, near Brits in North West, in 1998.

While some of the Tuli elephants were certainly taken to the sanctuary, this was "absolutely, categorically", not one of them, said Saunders.

It had never been treated or trained at the facility owned by Riccardo Ghiazza, who was found guilty and fined R25 000 in 2003 on charges relating to the abuse of animals.

The animal was from southern Botswana. This was its first time in captivity and it had not been trained prior to arriving at The Elephant Sanctuary, Saunders said.

The incident was receiving publicity only because an elephant was involved, and would not have received as much attention had a horse, a camel or even a 4x4 been involved, he said.

SPCA

National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) executive director Marcelle Meredith could not comment on the incident itself.

However, she said the NSPCA was "totally opposed" to the keeping of elephants in captivity, whether in zoos or circuses, or for use in safaris or walks.

"Elephants belong in the wild, and that has been (the NSPCA's) position since the Tuli case," she said.

She said the NSPCA was in talks with the Department of Environment Affairs and Tourism about legislation pertaining to elephant captivity.