Absolutely heart-wrenching news is coming out of Zimbabwe, as baby elephants from the wild are again being torn from their families and habitats for export to captivity in China. According to Conservation Action Trust, 35 wild baby elephants have been torn away from their mothers and are awaiting export to zoos, safari parks, and circuses in China. The elephant calves, some as young as two years old, are currently being held in pens in Hwange National Park as the government of Zimbabwe is preparing travel crates and documents for the 7,000-mile journey.
Tragically, this is the fourth time since 2012 that young elephants have been captured and transported from the wild in Zimbabwe to captivity in China, totaling 108 elephants in this time period. Official Zimbabwean authorities, such as the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, continue to allow and enable these terrible captures despite opposition from other African countries, world-renowned elephant experts, and several animal rights organizations.
Back in 2017, Humane Society International obtained video footage of 14 young elephants awaiting export to Chinese zoos immediately after their capture in Hwange National Park. The footage showed the calves being beaten and kicked as they were sedated and transported to the park’s holding pens. All of this abuse happened at the hands of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. A year earlier, in 2016, 30 young elephants were exported from Zimbabwe to Chinese zoos, and several of them died during transit or shortly after arrival.
Zimbabwe’s repeated capture and export of infant elephants is especially concerning since Chinese zoos and safari parks do not have any legally-mandated animal welfare standards. Many zoos throughout China keep their animals in isolation and neglect, with very poor veterinary care. Ever since these cruel exports started, they have sparked global condemnation, because of the horrific conditions in which the young elephants are kept. The African Elephant Coalition (AEC), a coalition of 32 African elephant range states, has repeatedly spoken out against the capture and trade of wild baby elephants for captivity.
This entire situation is all the more tragic when considering that African elephants are currently listed as a threatened species, with less than 500,000 remaining in the wild. The global community, including many African nations, are increasingly in agreement on the need to conserve these precious animals. Yet Zimbabwe continues to allow this horrific practice of ripping baby elephants from their families and homes and sending them to live and die in captivity in zoos.
If you are outraged by this, please take a moment to contact CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). CITES is an international agreement between governments that aims is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. Both Zimbabwe and China have signed this agreement, and both are currently in clear violation.
You can contact CITES directly and make your voice heard by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured image: A cow elephant and juveniles walking along the edge of Zimbabwe’s Lake Kariba. Image credit Vince O’Sullivan, CC BY-SA 3.0.