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

By on February 12, 2019 with 15 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.

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.

  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.

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