MEDIA STATEMENT - ISSUED ON 5 AUGUST 2014 - VETERINARY ETHICS AND ANIMAL SUFFERING An illegal shipment of eight Sitatunga antelope which arrived in South Africa after a gruelling journey by road and air from the Prague Zoo via Frankfurt on Friday morning, 1 August 2014 have been humanely euthanased and relieved of their suffering. The Sitatunga were destined for the ownership of the Johannesburg Zoo and a private individual. Despite a restriction on the movement of any antelope species from Europe, these animals passed through three checkpoints without the required paperwork prior to their arrival in South Africa. Due to the huge risk of bringing antelope species that pose a disease threat into South African ecosytems, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries would not allow the animals to proceed to their destinations, and made the decision that the animals were to be returned to Europe or humanely euthanased. Since Germany would not allow the animals to return, the only remaining option was to euthanase the eight Sitatunga. However, a number of wildlife veterinarians who were approached for assistance refused to euthanase the animals on ethical grounds. This resulted in the animals having to remain in their small transport crates which rendered the animals unable to turn around. These crates are not designed for prolonged holding, and it is believed that these animals had been confined to these crates for at least four or five days. The National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) is appalled at the suffering endured by these animals which were held in the Lufthansa cargo hold at OR Tambo International Airport for over two days while their fate was being decided. “This is a tragic incident and could have been avoided had the proper protocols been followed and decisive action taken by veterinarians in this country,” said Inspector Wendy Willson of the NSPCA Special Investigations Unit. “When the crates were finally opened, it was discovered that the water bowls within some of the crates had been incorrectly placed which meant that the animals were without water for the duration of their travel and holding time. All the animals were in various stages of dehydration and four had already collapsed. There were signs of facial injuries and haemorrhaging as well as leg abrasions and hoof bruising as a result of these animals trying to reach their water bowls and free themselves from their restrictive crates. The animals were hugely stressed and it was very disturbing to see the blood splattered crates” The NSPCA is raising questions surrounding the events that led to the suffering of these animals. • How were these animals able to leave Europe in the first place? • How could Prague Zoo justify sending animals of risk to South Africa as well as sending zoo studbook animals to a private individual well known in the hunting industry? • How did the Johannesburg Zoo become involved with this highly irregular consignment of animals? • How could wildlife veterinarians refuse to assist or euthanase these animals timeously when it became apparent that there were no other options available? The NSPCA is also extremely concerned that the company responsible for the transport of these animals “Pride of Africa” is the same company that transported the recent illegal shipment of reptiles from Madagascar that was abandoned at OR Tambo in January 2014. The Sitatunga are the victims, and the “ethical” choices made by some organisations and veterinarians have compounded their suffering. “The extensive international and domestic trade in wild animals is responsible for untold cruelty and suffering to wild animals. The transport of these animals appears to have had nothing to do with bona-fide conservation that will see their progeny returned to the wild and far more to do with individual greed, financial gain and entertainment purpose,” says Ainsley Hay of the NSPCA Wildlife Protection Unit. Sincere thanks are expressed to the Directorate of Animal Health (Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries), especially Dr. Maja for working with us and consulting widely in their attempts to find solutions to ending the animals journey of terror and suffering. ~ Ends ~
Posted on: Tue, 05 Aug 2014 12:58:29 +0000

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