At the beginning of last year, animal advocates were horrified to learn about plans to take baby elephants from their families in Zimbabwe and export them for public display. Now more concerns and objections are being raised following an announcement that yet more may be taken and sold to China.
During a visit to China at the end of December, Zimbabwe’s minister of environment Oppah Muchinguri told reporters “We are happy that young African animals have been well accommodated here in China… We are willing to export more in the years to come to help the preservation of wild animals.”
While officials in Zimbabwe say there are too many elephants there and are touting sales of elephants, and other wildlife, as a conservation effort, National Geographic points out that, Muchinguri’s estimate of about 85,000 elephants in Zimbabwe is more than double the estimate released by the African Elephant Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Regardless of the total number, opponents of the plan are calling the move cruel and unethical and argue that even if overpopulation in one area were a serious issue, ripping the young away from their families and selling them off is not the best option, and it’s certainly not in the best interest of elephants.
Since July last year, Zimbabwe has reportedly sold 100 elephants. Troubling images published by National Geographic over the summer raised serious questions about the well-being of a recent group of calves being kept at a holding facility who were seen with untreated wounds and were acting aggressively towards each other, but despite problems and alternatives more are destined for the same future.
Cynthia Moss, director of the Amboseli Elephant Research Project in Kenya, opposed the latest announcement and said “other management alternatives, including water point management, corridor creation, and local translocation are now accepted as best practices.”
Taking elephants might support conservation if the ultimate plan was to return them to the wild, but it isn’t. Elephants are only in captivity so we can have a population in captivity. Despite knowing how harmful confining these large, far-ranging, intelligent and social animals is for them, the practice continues and the industry continues to tout it as conservation.
While Zimbabwe’s under fire for its questionable plans, zoos in Texas, Kansas and Nebraska are also trying to get their hands on 18 elephants from Swaziland.
Considering the impact this will have on the individuals involved is a harsh reminder about the price elephants are paying for nothing more than our ability to see them up close on a whim. Unfortunately, because more are dying than being born in captivity, zoos will continue to turn to removing more from the wild to keep a captive population as long as people continue to pay to see them.
Please sign and share the petition urging Zimbabwe to ban live exports of elephants and step up its efforts to stop poaching.
Please also sign and share the petition asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to deny the permit to import elephants from Swaziland for display in zoos.
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