I have read the opinion piece by Rob Fryer about the Lamloch Farm development proposal wherein he identifies two major areas of concern:  Firstly the emotive issue of the exploitation of ‘wild animals’ held in captivity, and secondly the negative effects that the proposed development would have on the ecology of the site.  

Although he claims that the focus of his article is on the latter, he nevertheless writes some paragraphs on the former. Personally, I see little distinction between a ‘Wildlife Sanctuary’ and a ‘Game Farm’; both are areas where animals are held captive in relative security and can be observed by people who would not otherwise see them in their natural habitat. As to the moral dilemma and the semantics of whether the animals can be regarded as ‘wild animals’, that is a whole separate debate that I don’t want to get into here. Not that I don’t have a view, but doubtless so does everyone else.

I am more interested in the environmental issues. I have lived at Arabella Country Estate for nearly 20 years and I have no doubt that there was serious opposition from the environmental lobby before this development became a reality. I am certainly aware of the fierce opposition that accompanied the subsequent Phase Two application, and the hoops that any developer would have to jump through to pursue this. It seems to me that responsible developers more often than not become custodians of the environment, and even enhance what is otherwise of little value. This, I believe, is certainly true of Arabella.

The Bot River Lagoon is in a sorry state, covered in parts with filamentous algae and often smelling quite foul, yet the environmentalists would have us believe that this is an important ecological asset.  Correctly managed this no doubt is true, but the likelihood of this, given the economic priorities, is not great. Similarly, would it be better to do nothing with the Lamloch property and allow it to become progressively more infested with alien plant species and in the words of Rob Fryer, “risk destroying sensitive and endangered ecosystems critical to the endemic fauna and flora”?  That has a terrifying ring about it, but in the 20 years I have been driving past it, this piece of land has contributed little to my enjoyment of the area. I would love to see animals gracing the landscape, whether indigenous or not.

Maybe the type of interactive facility proposed would just be a whole lot better than a boring landscape of scrub fynbos and aliens. A man is proposing to spend a lot of money developing and enhancing the area to provide sanctuary to animals that might otherwise live in far worse places, if at all. He has done it quite successfully elsewhere, and there is no reason to believe that he is not a responsible environmentalist and lover of animals. He certainly isn’t doing it to make a quick buck. CapeNature is a responsible body and, personally, I am quite happy to accept the checks and balances that they impose when assessing an application such as this.

Doubtless this debate will go on, and hopefully, some middle ground will be found. Such that we can have a prestigious wildlife sanctuary/game farm on our doorstep that will give pleasure to locals and tourists – and won’t endanger the future of the planet.




  1. I agree 100%. Great to see that there are individual environmentalists who are able to reason objectively around the impact of such a development versus the status quo.

  2. There is one little problem which all seem to overlook. The wildlife proposed for the area will be free to roam as they wish. The elephants are captive with handler. That means, they are trained, a word Saunders says “we dont like that word” which we suspect means paying guests wont like that. He prefers “positive reinforcement animal management principles” . It is my view that the fence is also illegal and i and others are attending to that. i have responded to Saunders’s letter elsewhere and point out how he goes against the wishes of Cape Nature specifically. There is no evidence that Saunders is an environmentalist. He has been and is successful at human/wildlife interactions with captive elephants with handlers, nothing else. i have no doubt that many folk would like the idea of an alien free environment on that property as well as the surrounding properties and people like Grootbos Private Nature Reserve have shown us how to achieve that, without trying to re-create a bush experience. They have won the award, African Responsible Tourism Awards for 2019. This is not mickey mouse stuff. They offer an alternative which preserves the unique environment we already have. The driving force behind this proposal, is not a game farm or safari park, in my humble opinion. It is about creating credibility around the captive elephant with handler/human interaction business which went underground for quite some time after the Tuli elephant debacle was shown on Carte Blanche. It has slowly but surely again raised its head and here it is, full blown, on our doorstep! Watch the videos, i dare anyone to watch what happened to those elephants and explain to me how one trains an african elephant without severe violence. i do not believe any normal and reasonable human being can and will support that. It is what the industry is about. Despite Saunders saying that he follows the law in all instances, he has consistently failed to explain how one gets an elephant, an african elephant, to the space where it is so broken, that it can be controlled by a mere 80 kg human, with a stick. This is NOT a game park NOR a sanctuary. This is about captive elephants that are controlled every moment of their day by a handler. This, is a glorified ZOO. He has also failed to explain why he offers riding and trunk in hand walks, together with other elephant/human interaction activities at his other “successful” ventures, according to the writer of the previous letter. Cape Nature, who he professes to revere, does NOT condone ANY such activities! i have quoted their official stance in my response to Saunders’ letter elsewhere. We the public, expect Cape Nature to act in the best interests of us all. In this instance, as with the canned lion breeding and hunting activities, alas we are being failed. Why does Saunders offer activities which Cape Nature expressly does not condone? He has not explained this. For those that wish to know, the law is changing together with people’s attitudes as they discover what happens behind the scenes. A draft document was published in Nov 2018 and comments have been received which are being collated at present. i would suggest that actions speak louder than words. If Saunders really really cared for elephants, he would release the elephants under his control, into a sanctuary or a place that would assist them to return to the wild and not enslave them any further. Any person sensitive to the surroundings, would also consider very carefully the impact of erecting an electrified game fence across a very important estuary, twice as well as in areas where there never was a fence. A considerate human would take into consideration all of these issues and i would dare to venture, such a person would probably consider a different proposal. Saunders, however, is all about trained elephants, NOT free elephants, let us be very clear about that. He is not an environmentalist. There is no evidence. The clearing is to provide a credible surrounding for his elephants. Take away these trained and exploited sentient beings and i suggest, he would not even consider the proposal. A cleared area with some game, some accom, restaurant of sorts, gentle unobtrusive human footprint, YES! abused and exploited, fed and trained elephants with handlers, a very big and resounding NO!


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