Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Zimbabwe elephant exports

30 June 2015

Categories: Elephants Campaign News, Zoo Check Campaign News

In November 2014, it was reported that a number of wild elephant calves had been captured by Zimbabwe’s National Parks Department, and taken to holding facilities in Hwange National Park, from where they would be exported to foreign zoos and safari parks. Zimbabwe’s Environment Minister has claimed in news reports that the captures are necessary to generate funds for wildlife conservation, and to ‘manage’ elephant populations in the country.

Since this news broke, Born Free has been working hard to find out exactly what has been going on, and to appeal to the authorities in Zimbabwe to abandon their plans to export these poor animals and return them to their family herds.

The Zimbabwean authorities have so far failed to respond to our appeals. Reliable information on the animals involved, the conditions in which they are being held, and their potential fate, has been very hard to come by.

It seems that at least 27 elephant calves are being held in bomas in Hwange, where they are apparently being ‘prepared for export’. At least one has reportedly died since it was captured. Local animal protection and veterinary groups have been denied access to the animals to assess their conditions and welfare. Reports suggest that the export of some of the calves to ‘safari parks’ in China, where they may be ‘trained’ to perform in ‘circus-style’ shows to entertain the paying public, may be imminent.

We have appealed to Chinese and other authorities not to allow the import of these or other wild caught animals from Zimbabwe. Elephant exports are regulated by the CITES Convention, and we have appealed to its secretariat asking them to instruct Zimbabwe to suspend any export permits for these elephants so it can be established whether animal welfare laws in Zimbabwe may have been broken by their capture. The responses we have had to date have been disappointing.

Elephants are highly intelligent and socially complex animals, and young elephants depend on their mothers and their natal herds. Tearing calves away from their families at a young age is incredibly traumatic for both the calves and their herds, and is no way to ‘manage’ elephant populations. The value of elephant sales to foreign buyers is a tiny fraction of their larger value to their herds, the ecosystems in which they live, and the revenue that can be generated through sustainable tourism.

Born Free will continue to do all we can to prevent the export of these vulnerable animals, and to prevent the future capture and sale of elephants and other wildlife.

Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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