China plunders Zim baby elephants

ZIMBABWE conservationists have launched a campaign to stop the exportation of baby elephants allegedly captured in Hwange national park to China, a move described as violating animal rights in the country.

Don Pinnock/ Wongai Zhangazha

The conservationists, led by Zimbabwe Conservations Taskforce director Johnny Rodrigues, as of yesterday had a petition with more than 10 000 signatures; however they are targeting about a million signatures.

According to international media reports, more than 30 wild baby elephants are in bomas in Hwange National Park awaiting clearance for transport over land to Maputo and shipment to China.

The probable transit destination is Shanghai Wild Animal Park in China, though the final endpoint is possibly wealthy private collectors. Rodrigues has said his organisation has received some “very disturbing” reports of animals being captured in Hwange National Park for export to China.

“Apparently, China has ordered a certain number of animals, among which are 30 lions. So far, 34 baby elephants, seven lions and about 10 sable have been captured and are being held at Mtshibi Capture Unit, 7km from Main Camp,” Rodrigues said.

“The elephants are between two-and-a-half and five year old. Our investigators have seen the animals and tried to take photos but were not allowed. The security there is very tight. They were told that the animals will be sent by container trucks to Maputo in Mozambique where they will be transferred to a livestock sea freighter and sent on to China.”

Rodrigues said the baby elephants will likely not survive the long trip to far-flung China. “They are now being sentenced to a life of inhuman treatment. This is very traumatic, not only for the baby elephants but also for their families. Elephants don’t forget and this is very dangerous for future visitors to Hwange. We have to try and stop this export from taking place,” he said.

However, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Environment Water and Climate, Prince Mupazviriho, yesterday dismissed the allegations saying comments made by conservationists were based on “ignorance”.

Mupazviriho said: “Nothing has been exported as yet. This is a process underway that is legal and involves a lot of processes. Our business is conservation and as we do conservation we might find the need to relocate some animals to a certain area to protect them from poachers, relocate them from a dry area that is running out of food or relocate them from an area of high concentration to one of low concentration area.

“It does not matter whether it’s being done by company xyz or country xyz as long as it is within the confines of our law and it is being properly followed. What we need to do is to balance and keep numbers which are sustainable.”
Mupazviriho said the ban on the importation of sport-hunted elephant trophies had affected the safari industry and they could not export any ivory as 65% of the market was from North and South America.

“We are not killing the animals but if the numbers exceed the holding capacity of some of the conservation areas and someone comes and has a safer place to put them which we assess, then it’s for their protection. People should understand where we are coming from — that is from a wildlife conservation perspective,” he said.

According to a South African publication The Star newspaper, an undercover wildlife investigator who provided information said the elephant calves are being held at the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) Mtshibi Animal Capture Unit’s holding centre, a few kilometres from Hwange Main Camp, where they’re being vetted for diseases prior to export.

The newspaper says the tourists reported seeing helicopter and ground teams from ZPWMA roping the babies after separating them from their mothers by firing shots above the heads of the herd.

The calves would be below the age of five and not properly weaned, which reduces their chance of survival. Renowned wildlife photographer Karl Amman, who has investigated the illegal animal trade with Asia, is convinced those young elephants which survive will be used in a way which violates Chinese regulations designed to protect them.

“Based on a previous deal,” he said, “the elephants will probably sell for around US$70 000. I doubt whether a single importer would spend that money without expecting to recuperate their costs. That means they’ll be sold on and expected to earn their keep in shows. And that’s illegal.”

A Chinese government document headed The Guidance on Further Strengthening the Regulation of Zoos No 2010]172 states that no “animal performance” is allowed at any zoo or other public park and that animals may not be irritated or disturbed. Leasing out wild animals to organisations or individuals for profit is forbidden (as is eating wild animals in zoos or parks). Any violation would mean the withdrawal of a zoo’s permit to operate.

According to Amman, Cites is not allowed to issue import or export permits if national laws are flouted, but these are ignored by all the key players.

In the export of African wildlife, crooked deals and violations abound and Zimbabwe is high on the list of offenders, with high Zanu PF officials allegedly involved. The latest lion census in Hwange found only 83 lions, down from 200 two years ago. With the near extinction of tigers, lions (and lion bones) are now in high demand in Asia.

In 2012 Zimbabwe shipped four under-aged elephants to China via Emirates Airlines but two died soon after arrival. Zimbabwe elephants are being hunted for ivory tusks. In 2013, according to government statistics, over 100 elephants were killed by cyanide poisoning in Hwange National Park, although conservationists say more than 300 actually died.


7 Responses to China plunders Zim baby elephants

  1. Emily December 8, 2014 at 4:25 pm #

    Please find the soul that you seem to have lost China.

  2. sharon hoole December 9, 2014 at 2:59 am #

    Absolute travesty that Cites have once again failed Animals in Africa and Zanu PF are plundering the Heritage of Zimbabwe for Dollars cruelty and ignorance – GREED simple as that China has an appalling animal cruelty record – as does UAE think you should watch this

  3. Daniel Stiles December 9, 2014 at 9:42 am #

    Mr. Rodrigues is misinformed, about 50 elephants are planned to go by 747 directly from Harare to Guangzhou, where no doubt some will be sold on to other amusement parks to finance the venture. Since the zoo wants young ones they are probably intended to be trained for commercial performances, which contravenes CITES regulations.

  4. Solomon Zavare December 9, 2014 at 4:32 pm #

    I don’t understand these so called rights people whether animal or human rights. It is not a secret that in Zimbabwe we have a very large elephant population which is an environmental disaster as well as being unsustainable. All these people should be worried about is whether the money is getting into state coffers rather than postulating as activists.

  5. Paul pordone December 9, 2014 at 10:12 pm #

    The world is watching China and their total disrespect for wildlife. They are becoming the most hated country in the world

  6. valenciajoshua December 10, 2014 at 2:39 pm #

    only zimbabwe has zimbabwe’s best interest, not china, not uk, not japana or usa only zimbabwe

  7. mukwerekwere December 12, 2014 at 1:49 pm #

    We should not be exporting our elephants period. Kasukuwere you have soem explaining to do. This is a traversty!

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