Born free welcomes international ban on trade in live elephants


Born Free has welcomed a vote at a major international meeting on wildlife trade taking place in Geneva, Switzerland, to end the trade in live, wild-caught elephants for captive use.

Born Free’s Head of Policy, Dr Mark Jones, said: “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. If this vote is ratified, it will limit the export of live, wild-caught elephants to conservation projects within the species natural range. We applaud the government representatives who voted to end the trade, and urge all countries to ratify the decision at the end of the meeting.”

The export of live, wild-caught 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 herds from which they have been taken. Bringing an end to this trade would be a hugely progressive step, and we will do all we can to ensure the vote is upheld. Most importantly we need the UK delegation, and those of other European Union Member States, to support an end to the suffering of elephants.”



  • 46 countries voted to adopt changes to international rules that would limit exports of live wild-caught elephants from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana to “in situ conservation programmes or secure areas in the wild within the species’ natural range, except in the case of temporary transfers in emergency situations”. 18 countries voted against. The European Union, which spoke out against the changes, did not cast its 28 collective votes because of a technicality
  • Between 1990 and 2015, at least 1,774 live, wild-sourced African elephants were reported to have exported internationally
  • Since 2012, China has imported more than 100 elephants from Zimbabwe, including 34 in December 2016, and at least 14 more in August 2017
  • A total of 17 elephants were exported from Swaziland to three zoos in the United States in March 2016
  • Recent media reports suggest that a further 37 young elephants have been captured in Zimbabwe, and are being held in enclosures in Hwange National park while they await export to captive facilities in China and Pakistan, pending the outcome a legal challenge against the exports that has been brought by a local group of lawyers.