Ten hyenas that were seized by customs authorities at the Harare Airport from a Chinese businessman as he tried to smuggle them out have been returned to Hwange National Park.
In a statement, the Zimbabwe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals(ZNSPCA) said the crated spotted hyenas (Crocutacrocuta) were seized on November 3 by customs officials soon after arrival at the airport, with documentation indicating they were en-route to Hang Zhou Safari Park in China.
ZNSPCA said an initial examination revealed that all the animals were sick, while the crates they were held in were sub-standard and did not conform to the International Air Travel Association (IATA) regulations, as required under the Convention for Trade In Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES).
“In addition there were several irregularities with the accompanying paperwork rendering the shipment non-compliant in respect of any air transporter or animal regulating authority. The animals were medically examined and showed visible signs of stress, dehydration and multiple wounds inflicted by the crates. One animal required sedation to re-secure its crate.
“Of the 11 hyenas, one was a pup estimated to be approximately 6-8 months of age. As a result of its compromised condition it required immediate care and a decision was made to place the young cub under the care of Wild Is Life animal sanctuary located near Harare Airport. All the animals were fed and re-hydrated. Due to the lack of appropriate housing facilities for hyena in Harare it was deemed that the most appropriate course of action was to return the 10 remaining hyena back to holding facilities located within the Hwange National Park,” the ZNSPCA said.
The organisation said a contingent of ZNSPCA Inspectors accompanied the truck that returned the animals back to the pre-shipment holding facilities in Hwange National Park. Further, the organisation said it was ‘gravely concerned’ about the circumstances surrounding the shipment and the apparent documentation irregularities noted.
“The welfare of these animals is of primary concern to the Society, which has re-deployed several Animal Welfare Inspectors to Hwange to monitor the hyena and ensure full compliance in accordance with the Animal Welfare Act,” the society said.
Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF) chairman Johnny Rodrigues said one male lion, which was in the same shipment as the hyenas, had been moved to a safe sanctuary near the Harare International Airport.
Since July, Zimbabwean parks authorities have captured many animals which include hyenas, buffalo, elephant and lions for export to China despite massive opposition from local and international animal rights organisations. Most of the animals are still being held at bomas in the Mtshibi section of the Hwange National Park.