This year, a tragic story of elephant abuse in Knysna rocked animal lovers around the world. In an odd move for a institution that markets a town whose economy is based on tourism, Knysna Tourism appointed Greg Vogt, the ex-seven-year manager of the elephant park, as CEO of their organisation (a position, arguably, one of the most important in the small town).
I got hold of Wendy Anella Wilson at the NSPCA Special Investigations Unit in the hope that she can shed light on Vogt’s involvement in the case.
What is happening with the Knysna elephant abuse case? Where have the charges been laid and who has been charged?
Wendy: The case is with the Alexandria police. The charges are currently against Ian and Lizette Withers, Alex Vipond, Josias van Rooyen, Gregory Vogt… the directors and management of Knysna Elephant Park and Elephants of Eden.
Mike: Knysna Tourism has made Greg Vogt the CEO of Knysna Tourism. At the media launch, he said that the charges in the elephant abuse case won’t affect him. Is that true?
Wendy: Mr Vogt has some influence on how the charges will affect him, not if the charges will affect him.
Mr Vogt has indicated that he has evidence and information that would be of enough relevance as to allow him to turn State Evidence – a undertaking that he has already made public. We hope that he stands by this undertaking and that his past experiences at the facilities in question, and his alleged change in ethical viewpoint, help bring all the right perpetrators to book.
Mike: So Greg Vogt may, if guilty, get off completely?
Wendy: That is in the hands of the justice system.
Mike: What is the NSPCA’s relationship with Vogt?
The only past prior interaction that we have had as the NSPCA with Mr Vogt was when he was in the employ of Lizette Withers and was during inspections of the facilities.
Mike: What about with Thandora, the elephant that died?
Wendy: Vogt accompanied the team from Gondwana and not from NSPCA.
Mike: From being head of the Elephant Trainer’s Association (ETA) to animal advocate – have you ever seen Greg Vogt publish info against elephant training?
Wendy: I stand corrected but not to my current knowledge.
NB: Greg Vogt was a member of the Ethical Conservation Trust Alliance. I queried his inclusion with several members. Although one person vehemently defended Vogt, i’m please to hear, through the grapevine, that, as of this week, he is no longer a member.