Harare: Zimbabwe exported ninety-seven baby elephants to Chinese and Dubai zoos and safari parks between 2012 and 2018, some of which offer elephants performing stunts in circus shows, a minister said.
This is despite opposition from elephant experts, conservations and non-governmental organizations, including the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International (HSI) against the ‘barbaric’ practice of separating young elephants from their herds.
In defence of the practice, Environment and Tourism minister, Prischah Mupfumira said Zimbabwe has earned nearly US$3millon from baby exports, adding selling the calves to Chinese and Dubai zoos is a necessity to raise funds for conservation.
“The elephants were airlifted to Shanghai Wildlife Park, Jiangmeu-Hesham, Chimelong and Umurgi in China and to Dubai Safari Park. There were no elephant deaths in transit,” Mupfumira is quoted saying in the state media.
Mupfumira said baby elephants were sold for prices ranging from US$13 500 to US$41 500 each.
“The Authority received US$2 715 000. The beneficiary of the revenue generated was the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks). The funds were used to support elephant conservation activities.”
In October 2017, HSI obtained footage of 14 terrified young elephants awaiting export to Chinese zoos, after their capture from Hwange National Park by the ZimParks.
The footage showed the calves being beaten and kicked as they were being sedated and taken away to the park’s holding pens. In 2016, Zimbabwe exported 30 baby elephants to Chinese zoos.
Conservationists say calves can be entirely dependent on their mothers for emotional and physical support until they are five; others can still be taking their mother’s milk until they are ten or another sibling is born.