Update on Bally Vaughan – Mwanga Lodge Elephant – Gonzo



ZNSPCA wishes to thank members of the public for the tremendous outpouring of support following the relocation of “Gonzo” the female elephant from Bally Vaughan – Mwanga Lodge to her new facilities.

gonzo on neighboring property 1
Gonzo unaccompanied on neighboring property
In the weeks leading up to the removal of Gonzo she had on several occasions wondered on to neighboring properties unaccompanied. When attempts to remove her were made she demonstrated aggressive behavior. She was due to be declared a problem animal,
gonzo on neighboring property 2
Gonzo unaccompanied on neighboring property
which would have certainly resulted in her being euthanized.

By way of providing an historical perspective on this issue, it is noted that on the 24th May 2015, Silvester Muguye, an elephant handler employed by Mr. Gordon Putterill, was killed by a bull elephant while it was under the care of Mr. Putterill. This it bull elephant struck again on the 9th October 2017 killing handler Simon Kwirapo. The initial portion of this last attack was caught on camera. Subsequent to this second, fatal attack, Mr. Putterill then shot the bull elephant. Mr. Putterill did this shooting in the presence of Gonzo, the female elephant at the center of the current dispute.

Prior to the bull elephant being shot, and despite this elephant’s history of extreme aggression, between May 2015 and October 2017 this same elephant was allowed to gain close access to visitors at Mr. Putterill’s facility.

A ZRP letter addressed to ZNSPCA dated 22 February 2018 states that:

“The inquest hearing is still pending and the trial dates are yet to be set”

Additional ZRP documents dated 12 October 2017 further state:

There is need for Parks and Wildlife Officials to revise the licence of the game park as the two incidences have affected the lives of local people living within the vicinity. Also taking into consideration that there is only one female elephant left in the sanctuary it may get provoked by its loneliness and loose its temper at any given time hence will end up attacking people.

On Saturday 13th January 2018 at around 16:00 ZNSPCA made an unannounced visit to Bally Vaughan – Mwanga lodge. The Inspectors found Gonzo tethered to a post by her back leg on a patch of barren ground. While there was a small pile of cut vegetation, the elephant had no access to water and had been left unattended. Please refer to the photograph below.

gonzo tethered to post
Gonzo tethered to a post by her back leg

Based on this observation and combined with the receipt of several adverse reports from our animal welfare inspectors regarding Gonzo and the facility in general, ZNSPCA decided it would be prudent to consult with two, independent veterinary surgeons with expertise in wildlife management. These veterinarians made separate visits to the facility and both expressed grave concern as to the welfare of Gonzo and some of the other animals at the facility. It is pertinent to note that over the years ZNSPCA has appealed several times to the owners of Bally Vaughan to improve welfare conditions for their animals. Concerns expressed have included issues regarding diet, environmental enrichment, cage space and the granting of public access to certain animals that could pose a significant risk to visitors.

znspca risk concerns
ZNSPCA Visitor Risk Concerns

After extensive consideration and following the failure of Mr. Putterill to effect changes that would ensure Gonzo’s safety and well being, it was decided to remove the elephant from Mr. Putterill’s care and relocate her to a more suitable environment.

The Inspectorate elected to exercise their authority as provided for in the relevant Act. Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management were notified and the necessary permits were granted.

To ensure the highest degree of professionalism and to minimize any chance of harm to the elephant during the relocation exercise, ZNSPCA elected to engage a highly skilled animal transportation team from South Africa together with the assistance of two veterinarians with years of experience in wildlife care.

On Saturday 11th March 2018 at approximately 07:20, ZNSPCA entered the grounds of Bally Vaughan – Mwanga Lodge. Right of entry by ZNSPCA Inspectors is provided for under the Law.

What then transpired is now subject to a court case wherein Mr. Gordon Putterill is now an accused. ZNSPCA will not go into the details as the matter is now sub-­‐judice. Suffice it to say ZNSPCA believes the truth and justice will prevail. We notice there have been a lot of claims made on social media pertaining to this issue but we will not be drawn into public spats on what did or did not happen as Bob Marley did say, “It is a foolish dog that barks at a flying bird.”
We leave that to the courts.

ZNSPCA would like to assure the public that the animal in question was safely removed to a place of sanctuary. Her condition is being monitored and at no stage during the operation was she placed in a compromising condition as is being falsely stated on social media. If at any stage the veterinarians were concerned they would have reversed the immobilising drug immediately and aborted the mission.

Veterinary Surgeons Gonzo ZNSPCA
Veterinary Surgeons Attending to Gonzo ZNSPCA

She was warmly greeted by the other elephants and immediately welcomed into the group by excited rumbles and vocalization. One female has since taken her under her wing, guiding and protecting her. She is unshackled for the first time in decades. Gonzo is feeding, mud and dust bathing alongside the other elephants. Elephant cows are highly social animals and thrive in the company of other elephants. Gonzo had been alone since October 2017.

Gonzo March 13, 2018
Gonzo March 13, 2018

ZNSPCA is confident that it has fulfilled its mandate through this manifest improvement in Gonzo’s welfare. We still remain committed to the prevention of cruelty to animals without fear or favour.

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