Ban on sending wild-caught elephants to zoos takes effect; scientists urge Zimbabwe and China to obey

Baby elephants at Hwange National Park, photo: Humane Society International
Baby elephants at Hwange National Park, photo: Humane Society International

Elephant scientists and conservationists have united in an urgent plea to Zimbabwe, China and other countries considering exporting or importing wild-caught elephants for captive use, to abide by an internationally-agreed near-total ban on such activities that takes effect on 26th November 2019.

The experts’ plea comes in the wake of Zimbabwe exporting at least 30 baby elephants to China last month after forcibly removing them from their wild families almost a year ago and holding them captive at Hwange National Park.

The 30+ elephants are now being held in quarantine pending distribution to amusement parks and other facilities within China. This is the latest in a long line of similar exports by Zimbabwe; since 2012 ZimParks has captured 141 juvenile elephants and exported them to China and Dubai.  

Following international condemnation, a historic resolution was reached at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) held in Geneva in August this year, supported by an overwhelming majority of governments.

It introduced a near-total ban on live elephant exports from Zimbabwe and Botswana to zoos. As the CITES resolution does not take effect until 26th Nov, it would appear that Zimbabwe took advantage of the time window to ship the elephants to China.

Experts remain concerned that Zimbabwe may intend to capture more elephants from the wild and even defy the CITES ruling completely.

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