ZIMBABWE is preparing to ship at least 170 baby elephants to China as it has emerged that seven Chinese veterinarian doctors are camped at Hwange National Park preparing the animals for the rigors of a long-distance flight.
The elephants are destined for Chimelong Safari Park in Guangdong Province of China, which has reportedly ordered 200 elephants from Zimbabwe.
In June, Zimbabwe exported 24 elephants to China to fulfill part of the order, but preparations are in progress to send yet another batch despite global protests from animal rights and conservationist groups.
The Chinese veterinarian doctors are preparing the elephants for export by, among other exercises, caging and familiarising them with an environment similar to a cargo plane so as to condition them for the long flight, thereby minimising shock and stress during the journey as elephants are known to be sensitive animals.
In addition, the baby elephants, which are between two-and-a-half and five years old, are being given limited feeding as part of the preparations.
Reports of the presence of Chinese veterinary doctors at Hwange National Park and the exportation of wildlife to China has angered wildlife lovers, including a Liberal Democrat member of the European Union parliament for the South East of England, Catherine Bearder, who wrote a letter to Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Belgium Tadeous Chifamba demanding an explanation.
The EU parliament is based in Brussels, Belgium.
“I was most disturbed this week to hear reports that staff at Hwange National Park have been suddenly removed from their posts and replaced by Chinese staff and veterinarians. It would appear that this new staff is preparing the departure of elephants and lions from Zimbabwe to China. Last time we met in February, I expressed concern regarding Zimbabwe’s decision to export animals out of Hwange National Park to Chinese zoos,” wrote Bearder on June 25.
The parliamentarian has managed to convince the EU to step up the fight against wildlife trafficking by preparing an EU Action Plan.
She expressed concerned that the removal of young elephants from their natural habitats limited their chances of survival as they are more vulnerable without their herds.
However, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Environment Water and Climate, Prince Mupazviriho yesterday dismissed the allegations as baseless.
“That’s a lie. It is not true. There is no such thing like that,” he said.
The exportation of the first batch of animals caused global controversy but the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) management authority of China told the Cites secretariat based in Geneva, Switzerland, that the movement would not affect the survival of the baby elephants.
“The secretariat was informed by the Cites Management Authority of China (the Management Authority) on 3 July 2015 that it received an application to import 27 live elephants from Zimbabwe,” explained Cites.
“The Management Authority explained that the Chinese authorities had requested and received from the authorities in Zimbabwe confirmation that: the Zimbabwean export permit received by the Chinese authorities was valid and authentic; the export would not be detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild; and that the animals would be transported in conformity with recommendations of the Conference of the Parties to Cites on Transport of live specimens.”
The elephants’ export come at a time the illegal killing by an American of Cecil, a 13-year-old, rare, black-maned lion and a popular tourist attraction, has caused global consternation and a backlash against Africa’s multi-million dollar hunting industry.