Conservation outrage as Zim exports elephants to China

2015-01-08 12:14

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Harare – Zimbabwe has defended its decision to ship at least 62 baby elephants to China, the United Arab Emirates and France, saying the southern African country is overpopulated with African jumbos.

The country's tourism minister, who is also the acting minister of environment, Walter Mzembi, said Zimbabwe urgently needed to reduce its elephant population.

Wildlife authorities in Zimbabwe recently announced plans to export at least 62 elephants to top up scant state funding and curb a ballooning pachyderm population.

Zimbabwe, which, according to the parks and wildlife authority has an elephant-carrying capacity of 42 000, currently has about 100 000 elephants roaming its wild environment.

Wildlife conservation activities

Mzembi said the country had decided to reduce its elephant population by exporting, adding that the decision was within "compliance with international treaties". These three countries, he said, "offer appropriate habitats".

Walter Mzembi
Walter Mzembi. (News24)

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) allows Zimbabwe to export 500 elephant trophies each year.

"Our habitat is not designed to carry too many elephants that are in its environment. We have an over-population of elephants," said Mzembi.

Officials at the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, concurred with Mzembi, saying the country's big head of elephants destroys trees, endangers the environment and cuts food sources for other wildlife species in the country. Additionally, Zimbabwe needs proceeds from the sale of the elephants to carry out wildlife conservation activities, they said.

Rich families

Conservationists and wildlife activists have, however, criticised the move, with the Conservation Task Force planning to submit a petition to the country’s parliament against the trade later this month.

The US and European Union have signed petitions to block the sale of Zimbabwean baby elephants.

Johnny Rodrigues, chairperson of the Conservation Task Force, said the elephants were being sold to "rich families" in the three countries.

Other conservationists told News24 that the animals were being shipped in unfavourable conditions and they would also be exposed to unfamiliar and tough conditions in their final destinations.

In 2012, four baby elephants that were shipped to China from Zimbabwe died, heightening the case for those advocating against the sale of the animals to the three countries.

See below reactions from Twitter users.

Read more on:    zimbabwe  |  southern africa  |  conservation

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