The Zimbabwe Conservation Taskforce recently reported that the country’s government is collecting at least 34 baby elephants, aged two and a half to five years old, from the wild. They say the plan’s to export them to China, and activists are calling the action inhumane.
The task force alleges that China ordered the elephants and other wild animals — seven lions and 10 sable antelopes — for their zoos, some of which are known for their animal cruelty. Joyce Poole, cofounder of ElephantVoices, told National Geographic, “For elephants, being held captive for decades in a circus or in the majority of the world’s zoos is gruesome. It’s a fate worse than death.”
The government has confirmed the capture of the animals, but they claim that they’re actually being shipped to the United Arab Emirates, not China. But whether or not authorities are being transparent about location or not, one thing’s for sure: China is ordering elephants.
Daniel Stiles, a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s group on elephants, reported that a zoo in Guangzhou has plans to import 50 elephants. And according to the Times of South Africa, as many as a hundred baby elephants have been requested by China so far — and at least one has died in transit.
Experts say one of the biggest problems in all of this is Zimbabwe’s wildlife management, or lack thereof.
David Coltart, Zimbabwe’s former minister of education and culture, who’s now a senator with the Movement for Democratic Change, agrees. “[The] government is desperate for foreign exchange and revenue,” he wrote in an email to National Geographic. “Furthermore, we have seen such rampant abuse of our wildlife in the last 14 years that this would be consistent with [what]the ZANU PF Government has done during this period … There is very little ‘wildlife management’ left in Zimbabwe. Whilst there are dedicated individuals in national parks, wildlife has been plundered by a predatory regime.”
But the exportation of animals also seems to stem from a bigger problem with CITES, an international treaty that sets rules for global trade of endangered wildlife. According to this treaty, wild elephants can be traded for zoos, “commercial” purposes, and “personal” reasons. In the last 20 years, 640 African elephants and 424 Asian elephants have reportedly been exported around the world.
Today, there are only between 470,000 to 690,000 African elephants left in the world, compared to the three to five million in existence in the 1930s. That number could continue to go down if better rules aren’t set to protect these brilliant creatures.
Main Photo: (Reddit/ j0be)