Animal protection experts at Humane Society International/Africa and Zimbabwe animal groups have expressed their outrage and heartbreak at the news that more than 30 wild-caught baby elephants held captive for nearly a year in Hwange National Park, have been flown out of the country.
The news comes on the same day Zimbabwe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ZNSPCA), supported by HSI/Africa, Advocates 4Earth, and Sibanye Animal & Welfare Conservancy Trust, filed urgent court papers at Harare High Court. It was in an attempt to stop the shipment to Chinese zoos. Zimbabwe has exported 108 young elephants to zoos in China since 2012.
HSI/Africa has also released new, exclusive footage of the young elephants taken just days ago, showing them eating dry branches and walking around a small water hole in their fenced boma. These are the last known images of the elephants before their removal.
HSI/Africa’s sources on the ground report that army trucks moved in to remove the elephants, and that ZimParks staff on the scene had their mobile phones removed. Sources previously reported that ZimParks officials apparently planning to accompany the baby elephants to China had applied for visas to China.
The shipment to China is in defiance of the spirit of a landmark vote at the August meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
The new CITES rules don’t take effect until November 26, so it appears that Zimbabwe is attempting to export the elephants before the deadline.