This week, in a landmark decision, 46 governments voted to end the barbaric practice of capturing live wild baby and juvenile elephants, mainly in Zimbabwe, for trade to zoos and circuses around the world, at a major wildlife conference. Shockingly and shamefully, the European Union appears intent on overturning this historic decision by voting against it when it comes back for ratification early next week. NGOs, celebrities and government representatives worldwide are doing everything they can to sway what could be one of the most controversial decisions in wildlife history.
Originally the ban, which would apply to elephant populations in Zimbabwe and Botswana, was passed by the required 2/3 majority vote, largely because the EU was unable to vote due to a procedural issue (it had not yet filed its credentials). However, the European Union – which spoke against the ‘ban’ before the vote, and now has its credentials in order – looks set to vote against it. If the EU proceeds with this decision at the vote next week, it will condemn wild-caught elephants to a lifetime in unnatural captivity just so that zoos and circuses China, the US, the EU and elsewhere can continue to have a steady flow of live elephants from the wild.
Howard Jones, Born Free's CEO, said: “We face a knife-edge decision, on the future security of African elephants and the rights of elephant families not to be hunted, or mothers killed while their babies are kidnapped for live trade to captivity in China, Russia and any other country prepared to pay.
"It’s shocking that EU nations are poised to do the unthinkable and vote against this right, which will then allow Zimbabwe and Botswana to continue this appalling trade. It can’t be right, it isn’t right, not now or ever, and the people of Europe must speak out against this horror and pull their leaders back from the edge.”
Dr Mark Jones, Born Free's Head of Policy, added: “Over the last 20 years, close to 200 predominantly young elephants have been forcibly removed from their families and herds in southern Africa, and shipped around the world to live miserable and often short and lonely lives in zoos and other captive facilities, predominantly in China. We have long campaigned against this heinous trade.
“The export of live, wild-caught African elephants for exploitation in zoos and other captive facilities does nothing for conservation or elephant management. Instead it causes immense suffering among both the individual captured elephants, and the family groups from which they have been taken. The international community is on the brink of taking a hugely progressive step by bringing an end to this trade from Zimbabwe and Botswana, but unbelievably the European Union could stand in its way. We need European governments to wake up to public opinion and expert advice.”
An open letter supported by Born Free has now been sent to all EU environment ministers and the Finnish presidency. It’s also been signed by a wealth of celebrities including Alan Carr, Bill Bailey, Bryan Adams, Joanna Lumley, Judi Dench, Paul O’Grady, Ricky Gervais, Simon Pegg, and Thandie Newton to name but a few:
Jones added: “Bringing an end to this trade would be a hugely progressive step, and we will do all we can to ensure the original vote is upheld next week. To do this we urgently need the UK delegation, and those of other European Union member states, to change their position and support an end to the suffering of elephants.”