Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Appalling live elephant trade continues

18 May 2017

Categories: Homepage News, Elephants Campaign News, Zoo Check Campaign News, Wildlife Trade News

Namibia plans to export young elephants to Dubai

Hot on the heels of the controversy surrounding the sale of live baby elephants, snatched from Zimbabwe’s National Parks and exported to zoos in China, news has emerged that Namibia is planning to transfer five young elephants to a zoo in Dubai.

The report suggests that the elephants, who are between 4 and 8 years old, are currently located at a private game farm in Northern Namibia which specialises in commercial trophy hunting.

Born Free Foundation’s President Will Travers OBE commented: “The taking of live elephants from the wild for sale to zoos is unconscionable, and has been condemned by elephant experts and scientists on both animal welfare and conservation grounds¹. There is a wealth of evidence to show that wild-caught elephants do not fare well in captivity². These young elephants will still be highly dependent on their mothers and family groups, and their removal will cause huge stress and anxiety for them and the remaining members of their natal herds. Regardless of whether or not this transfer is strictly legal, it is clearly immoral, and it’s high time the international community put an end to this appalling trade. A zoo in Dubai is no place for a wild-born African elephant.”

Namibia’s elephants are listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), subject to an annotation which restricts trade in live elephants from Namibia to in situ conservation programmes. The proposed transfer to a zoo in Dubai clearly fails to respect this restriction, so it would appear that such a sale would be in breach of the annotation, and therefore might fall foul of international rules.

Travers continued: “In 2007 Namibia agreed that it would restrict trade in live elephants to genuine conservation programmes, but by sanctioning this sale they are undermining this agreement. We therefore call on the Namibian authorities to reconsider this decision, and to deny permission for the proposed sale. Namibia has a successful history of conserving its wildlife, and it is devastating to see this undermined by these actions.

“It’s high time for CITES to confirm that the intention of the annotation attached to the Appendix II listing for Namibia’s elephants is to restrict ALL live elephant exports from Namibia to bona fide in situ conservation projects, and NOT to allow exports that are clearly commercial in nature, serve no conservation purpose, and come with serious potential implications for the welfare of the animals concerned.” 

Born Free opposes the capture of animals from the wild for captive use, and will continue to work with stakeholders across the world to keep wildlife in the wild.

¹https://www.iucn.org/ssc-groups/mammals/african-elephant-specialist-group/afesg-statements/removal-african-elephants-captive-use
²Clubb et al. (2008) Compromised Survivorship in Zoo Elephants. Science 322, 1649;
Live hard, die young, how elephants suffer in zoos. RSPCA 2002
http://www.rspca.org.uk/ImageLocator/LocateAsset?asset=document&assetId=1232714741738&mode=prd
The welfare, housing and husbandry of elephants in UK zoos. University of Bristol, 2008.
http://www.idausa.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/U-of-Bristol-Report.pdf

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