Drugs and high stress could kill wildlife captured and exported by Namibia, says NSPCA
By Katerina Lorenzatos Makris
“Disgust” was the word an animal welfare organization used to describe its view of the Namibian government’s trap and transfer about 150 wild animals of a variety of species to the Cuban national zoo—the “Noah’s Ark II” project now in progress.
“These are captured from a large reserve and sent into small holding pens or bomas for a few months and then crated, exposed to noise and handling, long travelling times and extreme stress associated with all these processes,” a spokesperson for South Africa’s National Council of the Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) told Animal Issues Reporter in an email interview.
“Both the capture process, crating and transport process normally would involve different drugs and the use of these on animals already could have fatal effects,” continued NSPCA’s Wildlife Inspector Isabel Wentzel. “The stress levels are extremely high during all these processes, especially for wild caught animals. Long term stress symptoms also often only manifest much later and might not show immediately.”
Noah’s Ark II under fire
Already the target of ire from animal welfare groups for its annual slaughter of desert seals on its Atlantic coast—“the world’s largest and cruelest marine mammal slaughter,” as described by Sea Shepherd’s Cpt. Paul Watson—Namibia launched its Noah’s Ark II project in July. The government will possibly begin transporting the animals it captures across the ocean to the Caribbean island nation of Cuba in October.
“The NSPCA expresses its disgust at the Namibian government’s decision to capture animals from the wild for transportation to Cuba,” the group growled on its website. “Some 150 animals, including elephant, large carnivores, small predators, antelope and vultures will form part of a consignment being donated to the Cuban government as part of an agreement between the two countries.
“These animals will be taken out of their natural habitats and sent to a strange land where they will be deprived of freedom and be totally dependent on humans for their daily needs… [They] are to endure a long and stressful flight to their new destination. [The project] also raises questions as to whether or not any animal welfare organization has checked the facilities and standards of care at their end destination.”
AIR Interview with Isabel Wentzel, NSPCA
Animal Issues Reporter (AIR): Could you briefly describe your group, what you do, and what your activities are, if any, in Namibia?
Isabel Wentzel: We are an animal welfare organisation, the National Council of the Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) and deal with all animal welfare and cruelty related issues under the Animals Protection Act No 71 of 1962 of South Africa . Our objectives are :
- To prevent cruelty and the ill treatment of animals by promoting their good treatment by man;
- To prevent wanton and improper treatment of animals;
- To encourage kindness and consideration towards animals, including the establishment and promotion of Junior Movements;
- To maintain and protect animal and bird life in their natural habitats;
- To educate the entire community with regard to the humane treatment and compassion of animals.
We legally have no mandate in Namibia.
AIR: What is your group’s general policy or opinion regarding the capture of wild animals for use in zoos?
Wentzel: Our Statement of Policy states that:
- The Council is opposed to the taking or killing of wild animals, or the infliction of any suffering upon them.
- The Council is opposed to the trade in wild animals and to the trading of products derived from wild animals where distress or suffering may be caused.
- The Council is opposed to any degree of confinement or the use of any animal in sport, entertainment or exhibition likely to cause distress or suffering or which may adversely affect the animal’s welfare.
AIR: What is your group’s opinion regarding the capture and removal of wildlife from Namibia to be transported to Cuba’s national zoo in the “Noah’s Ark 2” project?
Wentzel: We oppose the capture and removal of all species from the wild to be sent to zoos or captive situations.
AIR: What value, if any, do you see in this project?
Wentzel: No value at all as there is not any education value behind capturing and removing of animals from the wild and to be incarcerated for the rest of their lives. There are enough animals born in captivity all over the world which makes the removal of these animals from the wild unnecessary.
AIR: How do wild animals normally fare during capture and transport of this type?
Wentzel: These are wild animals captured from a large reserve and sent into small holding pens or bomas for a few months and then crated, exposed to noise and handling, long travelling times and extreme stress associated with all these processes.
Both the capture process, crating and transport process normally would involve different drugs and the use of these on animals already could have fatal effects on animals. The stress levels are extremely high during all these processes, especially for wild caught animals. Long term stress symptoms also often only manifest much later and might not show immediately
AIR: What are your thoughts about the mental/emotional health of wild animals being captured, transported to an unfamiliar place, then living in captivity?
Wentzel: As stated before, long term stress symptoms also often only manifest much later and might not show immediately. Various behavioural problems normally materialise much later.
AIR: Are there any species involved in this project about whom you’re particularly concerned?
Wentzel: All species, from the elephants to antelope, from the large carnivores to the smaller species, and including the vulture. To us, they are all of concern.
AIR: Namibia is known as the “cheetah capitol of the world.” To some observers it might seem especially cruel to remove cheetahs from the wild, given their extraordinary ‘trademark’ speed and grace while running and hunting, a behavior they might not be able to fully express in captivity. What are your thoughts on this?
Wentzel: This is true and hopefully will make observers think again about supporting this trade.
AIR: Do you have any special concerns about capture of wild animals such as elephants who are believed to hold strong family bonds, and will presumably be separated from their family groups if captured in this project?
Wentzel: The elephants will suffer due to this break in their family bond, especially if they capture young animals only as was reported.
AIR: Do you know if the capture and transport of the animals in this project has begun or has been completed yet?
Wentzel: Cannot confirm either, it was reported that they would start moving animals in October.
AIR: Do you have any comments about any politics that might be involved in this project? Some news reports say that the Noah’s Ark II transfer of animals is being made as a sort of quid pro quo to thank Cuba for supporting Namibia ‘s independence struggle. If so, some observers might view this project as one that uses animals as pawns in a political game. Do you have any comments on this?
Wentzel: Cannot comment on the motive or reason behind this project.
AIR: Have there been in the recent past, or have you heard of future projects like Noah’s Ark II—more captures and transfers of Namibian wildlife to other countries?
Wentzel: No knowledge to this regard.
AIR: Namibia is also heavily criticized by animal protection and environmental groups for allowing the slaughter of wild seals, taking place this month too. Are you concerned that this criticism along with that for the Noah’s Ark 2 project might add up to the country being seen as exploitative and callous toward animals
Wentzel: We would support people taking this stance as the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism is clearly showing to be “exploitative and callous toward animals.” We encourage visitors to Namibia to think again before making Namibia their tourist destination.
AIR’s numerous emails and telephone calls requesting comment from the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism have not yet been answered.
Also on this topic:
Coming up soon: AIR interview with Cheetah Conservation Fund.
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Katerina Lorenzatos Makris is a career journalist, author, and editor. Credits include hundreds of articles for regional wire services and for outlets such as National Geographic Traveler, The San Francisco Chronicle, Travelers’ Tales, NBC’s Petside.com, and Examiner.com (Animal Policy Examiner), a teleplay for CBS-TV, a short story for The Bark magazine, and 17 novels for Avon, E.P. Dutton, Simon and Schuster, and other major publishers.
Together with coauthor Shelley Frost, Katerina wrote a step-by-step guide for hands-on, in-the-trenches dog rescue, Your Adopted Dog: Everything You Need to Know About Rescuing and Caring for a Best Friend in Need (The Lyons Press).
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