Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Are Zimbabwe elephant calves destined for Chinese circus shows?

12 June 2015

Categories: Homepage News, Circus Campaign News, Elephants Campaign News


Born Free Foundation condemns inappropriate and unacceptable trade

The Born Free Foundation strongly criticises news that wild elephant calves ripped from their families in Zimbabwe will be shipped to a Chinese safari park known for using animals in circus-style shows.

Zimbabwe has come under heavy international criticism since November last year when the removal of calves from the wild by park authorities was first reported. The authorities have gone to great lengths to try and hide the calves from public view, and there has been much speculation over their condition and possible destination.

“The brutal removal of elephant calves from their families will have been unbelievably traumatic for both the calves and their remaining wild family members,” said Adam M. Roberts, Chief Executive of the Born Free Foundation and Born Free USA. 

“The safari park in China for which some could be destined is clearly completely inappropriate and unacceptable for a wild-caught African elephant. These animals will doubtless be subjected to poor living conditions, brutal training, and forced to perform unnatural acts in the name of entertainment. We call upon the Zimbabwean and Chinese authorities to reverse course and call off the trade before it is too late.”

As many as 80 calves are thought to be held in bomas within Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. Local groups have reported that transport cages have been moved adjacent to where some of the elephants are being held, fueling speculation that the export of some calves could be imminent.

The Zimbabwean authorities have reportedly claimed the capture and sale of the calves is part of its so-called elephant management plan, and will generate money for the parks department.

It now appears Chimelong Safari Park, located in China’s Guangdong Province, has prepared a quarantine facility for live elephants, for which import permits have been issued by the provincial Quarantine & Inspection Department. Chimelong is known for its circus-style shows involving elephants, bears and other animals trained to perform demeaning acts to entertain the paying public.  

Born Free has also refuted claims attributed to Saviour Kasukuwere, Zimbabwe's Minister of Environment, Water and Climate, that the capture of live calves will help manage elephant populations in Hwange National Park, generate funds, and that the elephants could be returned to Zimbabwe for release into the wild.

“Elephants are complex and highly social creatures,” Roberts said. “Tearing calves from their families is no way to ‘manage’ them. At a time when they are disappearing across huge swathes of Africa at the hands of ivory poachers, Zimbabwe needs to cherish its elephants and understand they are worth far more in their wild herds than incarcerated in poor quality zoos and safari parks.”

Roberts added: “The idea that young calves can be exported to captive facilities where they will be ‘trained’ to perform unnatural acts, then returned to Zimbabwe and successfully released into the wild, is outrageous. It demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the impact this process would have on the elephants, as well as the complexity involved in the rehabilitation and release of these highly intelligent and social animals.”

The Born Free Foundation has joined Zimbabwean and international organisations urgently calling for the trade to be cancelled and the calves rehabilitated. It has also written on a number of occasions to both the Zimbabwean and Chinese authorities on this issue, but has received no response to date. 

Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
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