There is finally hopeful news that Charlie, a popular bull elephant at Pretoria National Zoological Garden, could finally be retired and allowed to live out his remaining years enjoying the freedom he deserves.
The EMS Foundation and Shambala Private Game Reserve have publicly announced a generous offer to fund the expertise required to guide and prepare Charlie for his evacuation from the National Zoo in Pretoria.
“Shambala is the best possible location for Charlie. World renowned experts have been appointed, and are on standby to relocate Charlie from the National Zoo to the reserve in Limpopo where he will receive the best possible care and expert support for the remainder of his natural life,” EMS and Shambala said in a statement.
It’s been a year this month since the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) announced its decision to retire Charlie. But 12 months on and Charlie remains in captivity at the zoo.
But this week, the EMS Foundation and Shambala have revealed that a state-of-the-art release and rehabilitation boma has been designed which “caters for Charlie’s every need and will provide for a successful slow release into a natural environment”.
A team of international and locally captive elephant specialists will be on hand to assist with his rehabilitation programme – a process that is expected to take years.
Generous offer hand delivered to Minister Creecy and SANBI
The comprehensive details of this enormous financial commitment, which is supported by elephant experts from around the world, was hand delivered to Minister Barbara Creecy and SANBI on the 22nd of June 2023.
At the time of publishing this article, there has still been no response apart from an Acknowledgement of Receipt. However, the EMS Foundation told SAPeople: “Our submission was very comprehensive, which is why we have given them a month to study and absorb the 500+ pages supported by elephant experts from South Africa and around the world.”
The Expression of Interest document sets out infinite details of the layers of the commitment offered by the two entities. The document showcases the exciting opportunity offered to Charlie where he can once again live as an elephant should, for the remainder of his life. The submission was made in respect of a publicly advertised invitation by SANBI.
Since December 2020 the EMS Foundation, steadfastly supported by the members of the Pro Elephant Network (PREN), has been in negotiation with Minster Barbara Creecy and the SANBI Board for the release of Charlie who has lived at the National Zoo for many years.
The EMS Foundation and Shambala Private Game Reserve have offered to relieve SANBI, the South African government and the hard pressed South African tax payer from any further financial obligation towards Charlie’s care.
Charlie has been offered the very best possible chance at rehabilitation, to live in a natural protected system and the opportunity of meeting, living and integrating with other elephants, some of whom have been successfully rewilded from a captive situation, if he so chooses.
“The EMS Foundation and the Shambala Private Game Reserve would like to take this opportunity to show their immense gratitude to all the many experts who are of the professional view that Charlie should be retired to a natural environment,” said the statement.
Who is Charlie?
Charlie has become a household name in South Africa with many conservationists – including the NSPCA – urging authorities for years to let him retire and spend his final years with some level of freedom. Charley’s entire life has been devoted to entertaining humans – he was a circus elephant for his first 20 years, and then has spent the last 23 years in Pretoria Zoo.
Captive-held elephants do not usually live for as long as wild elephants (which can live up to 70 years), and with Charley approaching his 43rd birthday, the NSPCA and other concerned South Africans urgently await SANBI’s announcement of a retirement date for Charlie.
Now, with the EMS Foundation and Shambala Private Game Reserve’s incredibly generous offer, the date will hopefully be announced very soon.
Source: EMS Foundation