- The rescue of nine cruelly abused elephants from a commercial training facility in Zimbabwe will begin on Monday, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has announced.
The elephants were confiscated in April 2009 after an inspection by the Zimbabwe National Society for the Protection of Cruelty against Animals (ZNSPCA) found cruel and torturous methods were being used to "tame and train" them for the elephant back safari industry - a popular tourist activity in Zimbabwe and elsewhere in southern Africa.
The ZNSPCA requested IFAW to step in and assist in translocating the elephants to a safe haven with a view to rehabilitating the elephants and releasing them back into the wild.
"These elephants have been subjected to the most appalling cruelty, all in the name of servicing an indefensible form of safari industry," said Neil Greenwood, spokesman IFAW Southern Africa.
"In fact 10 elephants were originally caught for training. Tragically one - a young male named Dumisani - died of malnutrition and the abuse he was subjected to. Given all of this, IFAW has assembled a top team of capture experts to translocate the remaining nine elephants to safety with the least possible stress," he also added.
The elephants will be transported from a privately owned ranch in the West Nicholson area, south of Bulawayo where the elephants were being "trained," to Hwange National Park, some 700 kilometres (437 miles) further east.
The wild elephants were originally caught on protected land in October 2008. In April 2009 when the ZNSPCA inspected the training facility they discovered abuses such as elephants chained on one leg and being fed from a distance requiring them to stand on three legs and strain at their chains to reach their food.
This practice was intended to enforce the dominance of the handlers and caused severe wounds to the chained legs, the inspectors found, also adding that the elephants were restricted access to water and shade, had varying degrees of wounds caused by training techniques and chaining and preventing the normal socialising of the animals and thereby causing unnecessary stress.
The translocation of the elephants which begins on Monday has been mandated by the government of Zimbabwe. The elephants will be darted and transported in a single group to Hwange National Park overnight before being released into a large rehabilitation boma for monitoring before eventually being released into the park, IFAW said.
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