BREAKING! Zimbabwe Exports More Than 30 Baby Elephants To Chinese Zoos Despite Global Outrage; HSI/Africa Releases Video Of Baby Elephants Taken Days Before Shipment

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Animal welfare groups from around the world, as well as those fighting on the ground to save Zimbabwe’s last elephants, are outraged by the news today that more than 30 wild-caught baby elephants, who were held captive for nearly a year in Hwange National Park, have been flown via Victoria Falls Airport to Chinese zoos. HSI/Africa released exclusive footage of the baby elephants taken just days ago. These are the last known images of the elephants before their removal today.

As per a recent update by The Telegraph, five of the elephants were reportedly rejected, “apparently for health reasons.”

The news comes on the same day Zimbabwe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ZNSPCA), supported by HSI/Africa, Advocates4Earth, and Sibanye Animal & Welfare Conservancy Trustfiled urgent court papers at Harare High Court in an attempt to stop the shipment to Chinese zoos.

While ZNSPCA reportedly confirmed the reports about the rejected elephants, The Telegraph is reporting that their inspectors had been denied access to the animals that were left behind and were not able to check on their welfare.

Since 2012, Zimbabwe has exported 108 young elephants to zoos in China, a controversial practice that has drawn condemnation all over the world. In August, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) agreed to a near-total ban on live elephant exports from Zimbabwe and Botswana to zoos. The new CITES rules take effect on November 26th, and Humane Society International feared that Zimbabwe would attempt to export the elephants before that deadline.

HSI/Africa’s sources on the ground report that army trucks moved in to remove the elephants, and that ZimParks staff on the scene had their mobile phones removed, presumably to stop news of the shipment getting out. Sources previously reported that ZimParks had applied for visas to China, apparently to accompany the animals to China.

To view HSI/Africa’s images and video footage of the baby elephants, CLICK HERE! 

Elephant biologist Audrey Delsink, Wildlife Director at Humane Society International/Africa, said: “We are left feeling outraged and heartbroken at this news today that the Zimbabwe authorities have shipped these poor baby elephants out of the country. Zimbabwe is showing total disregard for the spirit of the CITES ruling as well as ignoring local and global criticism.

“Condemning these elephants to a life of captivity in Chinese zoos is a tragedy. We and others have been working for months to try and stop these elephants being shipped because all that awaits them in China is a life of monotonous deprivation in zoos or circuses. As an elephant biologist used to observing these magnificent animals in their natural wild habitat, I am devastated by this outcome. These animals should be roaming in the wild with their families but instead they have been ripped away from their mothers for more than a year and now sold off for lifelong captivity.”

Lenin Chisaira, an environmental lawyer from Zimbabwe-based Advocates4Earth who filed an interdict to try to stop the exports in May 2019, and which has been working with HSI/Africa and others on efforts to release the elephants, said: “The secrecy around the ongoing capture and trade of Zimbabwe’s wildlife exposes lack of accountability, transparency and a hint of arrogance by Zimbabwean authorities. They seem prepared to go ahead despite global outcry and advice. They also seem keen to go against local pressure, and local legal processes considering the case we launched early this year which is centered on the welfare and trading of these elephants.”

Over the past year, elephant experts and wildlife protection groups across Africa have called for the elephant export to be halted and for all future captures to be stopped. The African Elephant Coalition, an alliance of 32 African countries, has called on Zimbabwe to end the export of wild elephants to zoos and other captive facilities.

Nomusa Dube, Founder of Zimbabwe Elephant Foundation, said: “The Zimbabwe Constitution Wild Life Act states that all Zimbabwe wildlife is owned by the citizens, and right now Constitutional national laws have been broken. The capture and export of wildlife in Zimbabwe is unconstitutional and unlawful thus any CITES permits are illegal.”  

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