ONE of the 24 sub-adult elephants exported to China last year after being sold for US$24 500 each has died amid reports they are being kept in unhabitable conditions, a conservation group has said as government vows to increase wildlife trade with the Asian powerhouse.
Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force director Johnny Rodrigues told the Zimbabwe Independent Wednesday that while details of the elephant’s death were not easily available from China, the pressure group had gathered that one of giant mammals died as a result of the new living conditions.
“The elephant died sometime in December and we suspect it was pneumonia. We have a vet we are communicating with from China and we are still to get more details on its death. Information is just so tightly closed in China. These elephants are exposed to so many things, a change in the weather; they are exposed to a lot of snow which is not good for them as they are used to hot weather,” Rodrigues said in an interview.
“With such conditions we expect more of the elephants to die. Their social behaviour is like that of humans. They need great care and appropriate food … When Cites (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) have their next meeting in South Africa, we hope that most of the animals facing extinction will be placed on Appendix I and all trade in live animals will be banned. If the authorities look at the scientific data, the results are quite frightening. A lot of animals will become extinct.”
Permanent secretary for the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate Prince Mupazviriho said: “I have not received that information, so I would not know.” He referred questions to the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.
Efforts to get a comment from Parks and Wildlife Management Authority spokesperson Caroline Washaya-Moyo on Wednesday were futile as her mobile phone went unanswered.
In a report on wildlife and conservation in 2016, Rodrigues said the year looks gloomy for wild animals and ecotourism. Government says Zimbabwe is over-populated with animals especially elephants arguing that exporting them could balance the ecosystem as well as generate more revenue
Rodrigues said over 100 elephants in the last months have died from cyanide poisoning but the police have arrested only a few people in connection with the case.
“… we believe they are just scapegoats. Many different species have died such as vultures, hyena, buck, lion etc. This is because they have been drinking from poisoned water holes. The people doing the investigations are under threat from the authorities. Most of the perpetrators of the cyanide poisoning since 2013 have not yet been arrested but investigations are on-going,” said Rodrigues.