Antelope in blood spattered crates euthanised
Johannesburg - An illegal shipment of eight Sitatunga antelope which arrived in South Africa by road and air from the Prague Zoo, Czech Republic, have been humanely euthanised, the NSPCA said on Tuesday.
The NSPCA said that despite the restriction on the movement of any antelope species from Europe, the animals passed through three checkpoints without the required paperwork.
The National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) said the animals, which travelled via Frankfurt, Germany, arrived on 1 August and were destined for the Johannesburg Zoo and a private individual.
"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," NSPCA Special Investigations Unit Inspector Wendy Willson.
"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."
She said the animals were hugely stressed and it was "very disturbing" to see the blood spatters in the crates.
When the crates were opened, the water bowls in some of the crates were incorrectly placed so the animals were without water, Willson said.
Bringing the antelope species into country posed a disease threat to South Africa's ecosystems and the agriculture, forestry and fisheries department would not allow the antelope to go to their destinations.
Willson said the animals had to be returned or humanely euthanised.
Germany would not allow the animals to return and the NSPCA said a number of wildlife veterinarians refused to euthanise 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," the NSPCA said.
"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 NSPCA said it was appalled at the suffering of the animals that were held in the Lufthansa cargo holding area at the OR Tambo International Airport.
The NSPCA said it would raise questions including the Johannesburg Zoo's involvement, how the animals left Europe and how the wildlife veterinarians refused to assist.
"The extensive international and domestic trade in wild animals is responsible for untold cruelty and suffering to wild animals," Ainsley Hay from the NSPCA Wildlife Protection Unit said.
"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 purposes."