Powerful op-ed by Paula Kahumbu …The barbaric capture of baby elephants for zoos in China shocks the world- Are there no limits to the cruelty that humans are prepared to inflict on their fellow creatures in the natural world? When there is money to be made, apparently not –…… In a developing scandal, the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) has reportedly captured several dozen baby elephants for export to zoos in China and possibly also the Middle East.
According to Zimbabwe Conservations Taskforce director Johnny Rodrigues, the elephants are between two-and-a-half and five years old and are being sent under conditions of tight security by container trucks to Maputo in Mozambique for transfer to a livestock sea freighter bound for China.
In a further twist it is reported that Australian Hank Jenkin, a former top official from CITES, which is supposed to regulate the global trade in endangered species, is now working as a consultant to procure “hundreds” of elephants for Chinese zoos and safari parks. Sadly, this is not the first report I have heard of the supposed gamekeepers of CITES turning poachers …
Zimbabwean officials have defended their actions by saying that the export of live elephants is not illegal. It should be. Thankfully many countries around the world are now taking action to prohibit elephants from being held in zoos and circuses. But China stands apart from this wave of change and seems to be going backwards.
Likewise, Zimbabwe’s actions ignore lessons that have been learned long ago in other countries. The practice of taking baby elephants, once common in South Africa, was banned there when the results of research in Kenya were presented to the authorities and convinced them of the horrific psychological suffering and trauma involved.
The driving spirit behind Zimbabwe’s actions may well be President Mugabe, who is on record on more than one occasion as saying that Zimbabwe’s wildlife “needs to start paying dividends”. Another top official put it more bluntly: “We are not interested in wildlife… we want cash.”
Image: Young elephants at play (c) EIA