HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe’s wildlife agency said Thursday it has sold 35 elephants to China to ease overpopulation and raise funds for conservation, amid criticism from animal welfare activists that such sales are unethical.
This once-prosperous country’s economy has fallen apart, and Zimbabwe’s government has said it needs to sell wildlife to support its people and conservation efforts. The government also has sought to sell its ivory stockpile for millions of dollars.
In 2014, the United States banned the import of sport-hunted elephant trophies from Zimbabwe, citing a lack of transparency in the use of conservation funds generated by their export.
“The Chinese have inquired about more elephants, baboons, hyenas, lions, among others, and we will sell them more without hesitation. We are not going to apologise to anyone,”
November 16, 2016 (ENS) – Zimbabwe’s Environment Minister wants to sell her country’s supposed US$10 billion ivory stockpile to China using an international legal loophole. Experts reply that not only is the minister misinformed that such a loophole exists but her assessment of the size and value of her nation’s stockpile is overestimated.
Botswana is home to the largest single elephant population on the continent, about a third of all Africa’s elephants. Kenya, according to the latest figures from the Great Elephant Census, has showed an increase in its elephant populations over the past decade, while Zimbabwe’s elephant populations have showed a decline over the same period.
Both Kenya and Chad have recently destroyed their ivory stockpiles, sending a clear message to consumers that it is no longer acceptable to trade in ivory, while China and the United States have begun the process of closing down their own domestic markets, which will practically close the door to any ivory stockpile sales from Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe captured dozens of baby elephants over the past year, tearing them away from their mothers and herds. Some young elephants shipped from Zimbabwe have already been placed in zoos, like these babies at the Taiyuan Zoo in China’s Shanxi Province. These photos give a glimpse of what likely awaits the baby elephants in their new homes:
A source who’s been inside the facility in Zimbabwe told National Geographic that the elephants are often crying out for their mothers and some have become weak.
“The prisoners are so stressed, they’re always crying for their mothers,” he said. “They sometimes take days without eating because of stress.”
“Why is it done clandestinely and then announced two weeks later? Because we know that at times calves have been taken away from their mothers, conditions have been atrocious and the money, no one really knows how it is used,” said Johnny Rodrigues, whose Zimbabwe Conservation Taskforce has been vocal about elephant sales to China.