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Monday, February 5, 2024

Zimbabwe defends export of elephant calves !!

Hwange National Park , founded in 1928 (formerly Wankie Game Reserve) is the largest game reserve in Zimbabwe.   In October 2013 it was discovered that poachers killed a large number of African elephants with cyanide after poisoning their waterhole. Conservationists have claimed the incident to be the highest massacre of animals in South Africa in 25 years.  Three of the poachers were caught, arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced. All royal game and elephant poaching offences now have a mandatory 9-year sentence and the supply chain is also targeted – with a man arrested on 21 October trying to smuggle raw ivory out.

At Hamilton Masakadza ton led Zimbabwe to an upset victory over Sri Lanka in both teams’ final warm-up before the ICC Cricket World Cup, running down Sri Lanka’s 279 with seven wickets in hand and 4,4 overs to spare in Lincoln yesterday.  Masakadza remained unbeaten on 117 from 119 balls, having forged hundred-stands with both Brendan Taylor and Sean Williams, who hit fifties.  Many will remember Zimbabwe beating famed Aussies in 1983 WC and pinning India down at 17 for 5 before cavalier Kapil Dev played innings of life. Even die-hard fans may not remember Charles Coventry who for sometime held the World record for most runs in ODI along with Saeed Anwar before Sachin Tendulkar hit the first ever 200 in ODI.

Back home in Zimbabwe, more than 80 young elephants are being held in a capture facility in Hwange National Park, in Zimbabwe, according to sources monitoring the situation there.  News of Zimbabwe’s plan to export  27 young elephants to Thailand  and 60 to China have evoked strong criticism. Such export though  is legal under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the global treaty organization that sets rules for and monitors trade in live animals.

Now comes the news that Zimbabwe has defended its plan to export 27 live elephants to China, saying it has sent experts to assess the suitability of the Chinese zoos they are destined for. A Zimbabwean ambassador also said that the sale of the elephants is needed to raise funds for conservation efforts, echoing earlier comments by officials at the country’s cash-strapped Hwange national park. At least 62 elephants, some of them calves, were reportedly removed from the park last year and are to be exported to countries including China, the United Arab Emirates and France.

Conservationists have condemned the plan as barbaric, and over 50,000 people have signed a petition against it.  Accroding to  Zimbabwe’s ambassador to the EU, the export of the elephants was allowed under the wildlife trade convention, Cites. Cites says the trade in the animals is permitted, provided authorities “minimise the risk of injury, damage to health or cruel treatment” during their transport.

To many,  separating baby elephants from their herds is cruel and traumatic. Elephants are highly sociable animals and need many years of parental support before they are able to survive away from their herds. Moreover, there is a very real risk that those herds affected will take out their frustration on unsuspecting tourists for many years to come.  There is also fear of the safety of such exported animals in China as  there are no animal welfare regulations or laws in China that regulate how zoos are run. These animals have been taken from the wild, which sends a very wrong signal to the public. The wild is where these elephants truly belong.

The collapse in tourism in Zimbabwe has hit national parks and conservation programmes. Hwange has too many elephants – 43,000 in a park capable of supporting 15,000 – according to the director for conservation at the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authorities. The fact that elephants could sell for up to $60,000 (£39,000) each to help the $2.3m annual running costs of the park, is making them resort to this move.  The Guardian quotes Zimbabwe Conservations Taskforce director  as saying that  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.

Are these baby elephants “ivory orphans” taken as they stand grieving at the bloody corpses of their mothers and sisters? Or were they dragged forcibly from their mothers, or stolen away in the night?  One is pained to ask ?? – whatever be the circumstances of their capture One  can hardly imagine the physical and emotional torment these animals will suffer: confined, alone and frightened on the long voyage to China.   Elephant mothers suckle their young for five years, which means that many of the elephants bound for China, some as young as two-and-a-half years old, were not physically prepared to be separated from their mothers.  The emotional bond between mother and offspring lasts much longer.  Experts say that elephants take care of the sick and comfort the dying.

Zimbabwe is not alone.  Conservationists have hit out at attempts by Tanzania to hold a one-off sale of its ivory stockpile and downgrade the level of protection for the country's elephants.  The east African country has formally applied to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) to allow it to hold a sale of more than 100 tonnes of ivory to Japan and China.  The country says the proceeds from the sale would be used exclusively for elephant conservation, community conservation and development programmes within or next to the animal's range in Tanzania.

Four African countries were given permission to sell their legally held stocks of ivory in 2008, which conservationists argue stimulated the market and provided a cover for traders to offload illegal stocks.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

12th Feb 2015.

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