Zimbabwe rips 35 baby elephants from their mothers for export to Chinese zoos

By on February 12, 2019 with 46 Comments

It is the worst kind of wildlife abuse, and it is happening right now – again – in Zimbabwe, where 35 baby elephants have been torn away from their mothers in the wild and are awaiting export to zoos in China. According to The Times of London, the calves, some as young as two years old, are being held in pens in Hwange National Park while travel crates are prepared and documents finalized for their 7,000-mile transport.

This is the fourth time since 2012 that Zimbabwe has captured and exported baby elephants to Chinese zoos — a total of 108 elephants — despite opposition from other African countries, elephant experts, and non-governmental organizations, including the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International. In October 2017, HSI obtained exclusive footage of 14 young elephants awaiting export to Chinese zoos, after their capture from Hwange National Park by the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. The footage showed the calves being beaten and kicked as they were being sedated and taken away to the park’s holding pens. In 2016, Zimbabwe exported 30 baby elephants to Chinese zoos. Several juvenile elephants in earlier shipments had died during transit or after arrival. It was shocking to see photos of the few surviving baby elephants, standing alone in dark, barren cells after their arrival in China.

The exports are even more disturbing given that China and Zimbabwe have in the past failed to conform with requirements under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). In 2016, when China sought to import 30 elephants from Zimbabwe, a team of Zimbabwean inspectors who travelled to China to assess the facilities the elephants would be housed in found them inadequate. The inspectors reported that most of the zoos showed signs of poor treatment of the animals and recommended the elephants remain in Zimbabwe until appropriate holding facilities in China were completed and assessed for compliance. Despite this recommendation, the elephants were exported to China without such reforms being implemented.

Zimbabwe’s repeated capture and export of infant and juvenile elephant calves has sparked global condemnation because of the horrific conditions under which these young elephants are kept. Elephant expert Dr Joyce Poole — widely regarded as the world’s leading elephant communication specialist — has described the activities as “tragic and morally reprehensible”. The African Elephant Coalition (AEC), a coalition of 32 African elephant range states, has also repeatedly spoken out against the capture and trade of wild baby elephants for captivity. HSI co-led a report on challenges to the trade in wild-caught African elephants with the AEC, and our staff is now attending the AEC’s summit in Kenya where we expect to hear strong objections raised over this most recent and brutal capture of wild baby elephants.

In defense of the practice, Zimbabwe’s Minister of the Environment Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri has said that her country intends to increase the rate and range of wildlife exports as part of a scheme to raise funds for conservation. “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,” she said.

Unfortunately, our appeals to the Zimbabwe government to stop these exports have fallen on deaf ears. In January 2018, HSI/Africa and 33 partners submitted a letter to Zimbabwe’s new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, pleading for a halt to the horrific abuse and practice of capturing elephants from the wild for captivity. We did this after learning of his statement that called for a review of Zimbabwe’s conservation decisions following recent elephant exports. With this most recent capture of the baby elephants, little appears to have changed in how Zimbabwe handles its precious wildlife.

African elephants are currently listed as a threatened species with less than 500,000 remaining in the wild, and the global community is increasingly in agreement on the need to conserve these animals. Keeping elephants and other wildlife alive is also key to economic progress in so many African nations, because millions of tourists trek to these countries to see them there. By ripping baby elephants from their mothers and sending them to lives diminished by captivity in zoos overseas, Zimbabwe is setting itself on a path that will not only decimate its wildlife but will also further compromise its standing in the eyes of the world.

Say ‘no’ to the capture and export of baby elephants from Zimbabwe to China

Humane Society International, Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. Audrey Engelking says:

    This is so horrendous!! This animal cruelty has to stop!!!

  2. Teresa Colon says:

    Please not

  3. FW Dustin says:

    ” Zimbabwe is setting itself on a path that will not only decimate its wildlife but will also further compromise its standing in the eyes of the world.” It already has compromised its standing. How in humane can anyone country be with its people or its wildlife, for nothing more then GREED when will it stop? Never I’m afraid. How sad a statement on supposedly the most “intelligent” species on this beautiful world God gave to all. HE gave us dominion over the planet and its life forms because we are supposed to be the “most intelligent” I think not. WAKE UP PEOPLE.

  4. Constance Norman says:

    Horrid human corruption. Beyond criminal and all that is evil. Prayers for these innocent souls that have and will continue to be traumatised and tortured. PLEASE just … stop.

  5. Sally Palmer says:

    The Zimbabwe government are Satanic, greedy monsters. Animal beings warrant the same respect for their lives and families as human beings. As for the Chinese…or all zoos, for that matter, unless they are true sanctuaries to give animals who have been freed from slavery peace.

  6. David says:

    As long as Zimbabwe keeps selling elephants to China, no Country on this Earth should do business with China nor Zimbabwe. This horrendous treatment has to stop asap. Elephants are listed as a threatened species. That alone should prevent Zimbabwe from capturing and selling baby and or adult elephants and should definitely keep China from buying or trading goods for any elephants. I personally will no longer purchase anything made in China and everyone on this planet should boycott China. The U. S. Government should get involved and force a stoppage of this practice.

    • Maria Roberts says:

      I agree with David that countries that treat social animals, like elephants, with such cruelty should not be a trade country, but isolated and economically punished so that they pay for their actions.


    • Dave Wood says:

      Sadly we will have a very difficult job, because EVERYTHING seems to be made in China!!!

  7. Jennifer McClung says:

    Please stop this animal cruelty

  8. Numrata says:

    HSI, is there anything that can be done to stop this ?

  9. Iris Neumann says:

    This has to stop, please help them they are helpless

  10. Stacey says:

    This is horrible. Though I appreciate this blog post, it’s be helpful to tell readers what we can do/reach out on this specific topic.

  11. Tina Sharp says:

    How we help to try and stop this sort of behaviour?

  12. Kathleen Bolton says:

    More should be done by governments,but l guess china is a law unto themselves. Abhorrent.

  13. Marietjie Larney says:

    Shame on Zimbabwe! Save the babies from such cruelty, please.

  14. J McDermott says:

    This is heart breaking and so horribly cruel and inhumane. So traumatizing for these babies. These poor young elephants will live a life of stress, fear, neglect and abuse (if they even survive the initial trauma and long journey). It’s a disgrace for a Gov’t to allow such abuse of their beautiful, endangered wildlife. We have International laws for human rights. Where are the international laws for animal rights? Long overdue, unfortunately. Personally i don’t purchase goods made in China as the Gov’t allows people to treat animals like objects to do with as they will. Their lack of animal protection laws is appalling. I am also appalled that Zimbabwe puts profit and greed over ethics and responsibility. So sad for these elephants who have the right to live their lives in peace with their own families without human interference and abuse.

  15. Bee Wilson says:

    These Elephants belong in Africa, they have suffered enough through poaching for their Ivory, to be a tourist attraction perform in Circuses and made to work. They need all the help they can get in not sending them to Hell Hole China, renowned for cruelty towards Wildlife & animals the worst place on earth for these gentle giants.

  16. Patsy McLaughlin says:

    My heart bleeds for those poor babes and also their mothers. I wish Kilawea was in Zimbabwe and would obliterare it – once the animals and the good people were moved out.

  17. Anna Stavinoha says:

    Elephants are a world treasure! They are not for human profit or entertainment. Stop the torture of these elephant families!

  18. Max VonStrandtmann says:

    China is horrific to animals. China only cares about money. Boycott All China made products!

  19. Erika W. says:

    Why is Africa getting rid of their wildlife treasures? Money & greed. it all comes back to money. this story has inspired me to start campaigning harder for wildlife in 2019.

  20. Dtravill says:

    What can I do as a consumer? How can I help to stop this horrendous situation? They don’t deserve to be Zoo prisoners! They don’t deserve to be ripped away from their mamas! They don’t deserve this treatment arriving sick pour some of them dying and all of this so people can gawk at them at a zoo? It’s disgusting!

  21. Elisa Kleven says:

    Please let us know what we can do to stop this sadism -for -profit!

    • Claire says:

      Zimbabwe wants to send elephants to China, are they in complete ignorance of the fact the Chinese have no respect for animals, except pandas. Does Zimbabwe not know about the appalling conditions elephants are kept in Chinese zoos.I have just watched a u tube video of an elephant banging his /her trunk against a metal door in an underground enclosure as he /she urinates on a concrete floor. Shame on you Zimbabwe for sending your wildlife to a life of mental and physical deprivation as you are incapable of managing your finances, so you think this will help fill your coffers. Disgusting

  22. Sally B Elms says:

    I am horrified at this latest atrocity against our wildlife! I agree with the person who mentioned the U.S. getting involved and putting a stop to this somehow…Poor elephant babies and poor elephant mothers! I believe that places like China and Zimbabwe have the very same thing in common with trophy hunters and poachers…they are greedy and careless! These kinds of people seem to think that there is a limitless number of animals in every species for them to proudly kill so they can show off their trophies! I cannot even imagine abusing a baby elephant or any other animal for that matter. In this case, Zimbabwe seems to be trying to make people believe that it’s conservation they care most about, when everyone knows it’s simply the same thing that has always been cared most about…money!

  23. Janette Lawrie says:

    This should stopped what are they going to do when we no longer have such loving caring animals which deserve to be on this earth . It should be these cruel humans who are put in a cage and done to them what they do to the animals .

  24. Brenda Carty says:

    This MUST STOP.Never attend any activity whice use animals for the amusement of morons.This includes the captibve Dolphins who are also torn from their family oids.China has a lot to answer for and Zimbabwa also.So much cruelity around the entire globe.When will people and goverments end and stand up against animal abuse.

  25. Royce Vassi says:

    I was in Zimbabwe in November/December 2018 volunteering at a rhino conservation reserve. They have two wonderful adult elephants there. The people of Zimbabwe are incredibly special, kind and forward-looking despite the circumstances and trying conditions they live under. The new president is only more of the same as they had before. It’s incredibly sad to feel so unable to change anything about this situation. If anyone has ANY idea, please spell it out here.

  26. Ralph Massetti says:

    It’s not Zimbabwe that should be dealt with, it’s China. After-all, like human trafficking, it’s the customers that feed the machine. Supply is only the effect of demand. Shame on China for being the feeding hand to this greedy government. Surely, this increasingly wealthy Nation needs to stop acting like 3rd world Sadists just because now they can afford to.

  27. Debra Grossman says:

    How can they do this horrible thing? China does not have any animal welfare laws? A country without laws that protects animals should never be given animals. They torture the animals that have the misfortune to be born in China. Is ther any way to stop this?

  28. Elaine pooley says:

    Maybe president trump could try and redeem himself by making this public around the world. Condemnation from as many countries as possible must surely help.

  29. Ilana says:

    Zimbabwe’s goverment think, that they have “way to many elephants”. This pure babies came from families and mothers, that was kill for illegal ivory trade.
    Thank you China for saving endangered species!

  30. Nancy Ockene says:

    Avoid Zimbabwe at all costs. They have no Comprehension of the damage done to the elephant population the elephants have emotions similar to humans and it is cruel and a hearing in humane to take a baby elephant from its mother and put into Trumatic conditions shame on China and Zimbabwe

  31. elizabeth J dana says:

    Tourist dollars with held and financial tariffs are the only language the greed of a country understands. Maybe a logo with a baby elephant in a circle with a z crossed through it will alert the world ..WE DON’T TRAVEL TO BUY FROM OR SUPPORT ZIMBABWE!!!! Free the Elephants!

  32. onasis says:

    i live in rural zimbabwe and just dont support this move by our own government. great people, we are suffering at the hands of dictactors this current gvt does not care about both humans and animals. they continue to plunder resources of this beatiful country. we are fed, we are innocent and suffering here.

  33. Sue L. says:

    Horrific! hate China.
    very mean, cruel people….
    who hurt animals. Now
    they are buying All the Wild Animals they can…..
    poor baby elephants, ripped from their mothers
    & family. Cruel, cruel, l

  34. Nevaeh says:

    Hello I was wondering if I could call or email you for an experiment I am doing for school

  35. Andy says:

    Quit purchasing anything made in China. Read the labels and ask questions.
    This is sick. As a grown man it brings me tears to see an animal surfer.
    It’s greed and more greed.
    Celebrities need to step up with their resources and lobby politicians.

  36. Deborah Taylor says:

    How can we get these calfs back?

  37. Unknown says:

    It’s a horrible thing to do and it should not never be done

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