Court finds Tuli elephant owner guilty

Court finds Tuli elephant owner guilty

African Game Services owner Riccardo Ghiazza and a student animal handler were found guilty in the Pretoria Regional Court on Monday of ill-treating a group of 30 elephants brought to a farm near Brits from Tuli in Botswana in 1998.

Ghiazza and his company were found guilty of being party to the ill-treatment which was first exposed when footage of the animals being beaten by handlers was broadcast by pay television station M-Net in its actuality show Carte Blanche.

Student Wayne Stockigt was found guilty on two charges of animal abuse.

While counts of contravening the Animal Protection Act were initially brought against seven accused, in the end only four went on trial, all of them pleading not guilty to counts of contravening provisions of the Animal Protection Act.

Handler Craig Saunders was discharged when it emerged that the state could not prove a case against him.

African Game Properties (AGP), owner of the De Rust premises, was found not guilty on two counts under the Act on Monday because it did not have physical control over the animals.

Magistrate Adriaan Bekker found that Ghiazza and his company not only did nothing to prevent the abuse but they “foresaw and reconciled themselves with the possibility of the elephants enduring unnecessary pain and suffering” through the methods of dominance used by the Indonesian mahouts they hired to train them.

Ghiazza could also be held to account for doing nothing to stop the use of uninsulated chains on the elephants’ legs for an unreasonable amount of time after it was pointed out to him and his company that these were injuring the animals, Bekker ruled.

While Bekker found that Stockigt had intentionally cruelly beaten elephants in two instances—one of them which was captured on film and broadcast on Carte Blanche—he was not convinced that the student handler had done so in another two cases and acquitted him on those counts.

The case was postponed until July 24 for sentencing. - Sapa