Trade in live elephants from Zimbabwe -

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Re: Trade in live elephants from Zimbabwe -

Post by Lisbeth » Wed Jan 31, 2018 11:11 am

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Zimbabwe: Selling elephants to questionable Chinese destinations damages country’s tourism, say critics

BY DON PINNOCK - 30 JANUARY 2018 - DAILY MAVERICK -

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By the time Zimbabwe’s new political winds of change reach its wildlife practices – the heart of its potential tourism industry – they appear to ebb to a light Chinese breeze. It appears to be business as usual, writes DON PINNOCK, and that’s not good news for elephants.

The signs were encouraging at first. Soon after his inauguration, Zimbabwe’s new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, endorsed a programme to save pangolins. He was quoted by his chief adviser as saying that, in light of the export of elephants, he would be reviewing conservation decisions and formulating a policy. He also pledged to conserve the country’s environment.
“Conservation and tourism go hand in hand,” he said, “and my government is committed to ensuring the safety of visitors and to working with partners to increase our conservation efforts to protect our natural world.”

Damien Mander, founder of the International Anti-Poaching Foundation, was enthusiastic. He said he believed the government was sincere in its desire to change: “Discussions with the new leadership leave me confident that Zimbabwe and its conservation policies are moving in the right direction, step by step.”

Two local reports with unconfirmed sources fanned the enthusiasm. In January Bulawayo24 News ran a story that Grace Mugabe was under investigation for international ivory poaching. And the Daily News reported that Mnangagwa had banned the trade in live elephants following the global outcry in the wake of the sale of baby elephants to China last year.

The last report was a bridge too far. At Davos in Switzerland the president’s delegation was asked if the ban on capture, sale and export of baby elephants was real. The answer was, essentially, “No, we haven’t got a policy for that.”

There’s a reason and it poses a tourism conundrum for Zimbabwe’s new leaders.

The country has huge tourist potential which was a central pillar in the economy before the Mugabe meltdown. Zimbabwe is visually spectacular with abundant wildlife and star attractions such as the Victoria Falls, Hwange, Mana Pools and Gonarezhou national parks and Great Zimbabwe.

But international tourists are generally well informed and stories like the killing of Cecil the lion by a bow hunter and running down herds in Hwange with vehicles and helicopters to capture baby elephants all do massive reputational damage to Zimbabwe’s image. Banning trophy hunting and wildlife export, as Botswana has done, would be a logical first step. But there’s a problem.

China is Zanu-PF’s economic and political best friend. It may have banned the import and sale of ivory from January, but the living bearers of tusks are in hot demand, as is other wildlife, to stock Asian parks and zoos. Another best friend is US-based Safari Club International, a large, powerful and lucrative source of trophy hunters.

According to the country’s National Elephant Management Plan, to secure a future, elephants must have value. In 2004 Zimbabwe set a massive export quota of tusks as trophies – 1,000 annually – which is still in place. This equates to 500 elephants which could be legally shot by hunters and their tusks exported. Between 2003 and 2013, according to the CITES database, more than 28 tonnes were exported from Zimbabwe by trophy hunters alone. How much poachers exported is anybody’s guess.

Live export is another business. For many years, Zimbabwe has been selling baby elephants and other wildlife to questionable Asian destinations, creating extreme stress to Hwange National Park herds. In December last year 31 young elephants were flown to Chongqing and Daqingshan safari parks in China. According to eyewitness reports, the calves had open wounds and appeared ill and lethargic at the time of shipment on Ethiopian Airlines, indicating poor husbandry and handling.

This was one of at least three known shipments of wild caught elephants sent to China since 2012, totalling nearly 100 calves. There have been constant reports and video documentation of cruelty to the youngsters.

Conservationists are concerned that the elephants go to zoos with poor welfare records or where cruel methods will be used to make them into little more than circus performers. One destination is the huge and widely criticised Chimelong Wildlife Park, which includes a circus and stages a variety of dubious performances and stunts involving its animals.

There’s little evidence that income from these animal sales is ploughed back into Zimbabwean conservation. A statement by Zimparks – quoted by Jeremy Hance on Mongabay – said “live sales of elephants to international destinations are done to generate financial resources for conservation programmes’. Grace Mugabe had other plans. Last year, before her political downfall, she is reported to have urged the sale of 35 young elephants, eight lions, 12 hyenas and a giraffe to settle a debt to China for equipment bought by Zimbabwe to help President Laurent Kabila in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Zimbabwe, unlike other countries, has a unique wildlife conservation funding system in that no amount is allocated for conservation in the national budget. This forces struggling parks to shoot protected game for the pot and let infrastructure decay.

Zimbabwe officials often claim that elephant sales are related to too many elephants and say selling is preferable to culling. They quite rightly point out that the transactions carry CITES permits. Total elephant numbers vary widely, depending on who’s claiming them.

Zimbabwean environmental activist Kenesias Dambakurima was told by Zimparks Director-General Fulton Mangwanya that the country had 70,000 elephants but only the carrying capacity of 50,000, which leaves 20,000 for “export”. He also told him that the elephants being captured and exported are not baby elephants but adults. According to the Great Elephant Census, the country has more – 82,304 – but notes that this equals a decline of 6% overall and 74% in the northern regions.

In 2016, during a visit to Chimelong Safari Park, Zimbabwean politician Oppah Muchinguri Kashiri told Chinese journalists her country would increase its export of wildlife, including elephants, to Chinese wildlife parks. She said she would not apologise for the export and added that the Chinese authorities had treated the elephants well. “There is a drought and soon the elephants will die,” she said. “It is better we sell them, especially to those who can take good care of them.”

Muchinguri Kashiri has close ties with China. Several years ago she received a $3-million donation from its ambassador for wildlife protection equipment, described by environmentalists at the time as “extractive philanthropy”. She has been retained as Minister of Environment, Water and Climate in Mnangagwa’s new cabinet.

This leaves Zimbabwe tourism at something of a crossroads. In plotting the way forward, President Emmerson Mnangagwa needs to urgently solve the conundrum between buying Chinese support through wildlife sales or rebuilding the country’s tourism industry.

A letter to Mnangagwa from Humane Society International signed by 33 wildlife advocates globally in December 2017 urged the president to halt immediately the capture and export of young, wild elephants from Zimbabwe’s parks.

“We plead with you to stop these atrocities and lead by example. It is a great opportunity for your new government to win further global support by halting the exports of wild elephants and use eco-tourism to promote Zimbabwe’s wildlife and natural heritage on an international platform.”

A petition on Care2, also urging a halt, had gathered nearly 300,000 signatures by time of writing. It urged Zimbabwe to stop “capturing and exporting its elephants under the guise of conservation, and instead invest resources in maintaining elephant safety and elephants’ natural habitat, concentrating efforts on non-consumptive wildlife tourism”.

It urged the president to join the African Elephant Coalition – an alliance of 29 countries that has proposed a ban on the export of African elephants outside their natural range. It also asked that China stop demanding wild elephants for the purpose of human exploitation.

Rob Brandford, Executive Director of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya, pointed out that Zimbabwe – and any country that might consider selling elephants to zoos – needs to see the importance of elephants to their country, its environment and its tourism.“People will travel to a country to witness elephants being elephants, living wild… they will pay for themselves through the tourists they bring.”

The issue is well framed in an open letter to Mnangagwa by Simon Espley of Africa Geographic:

“Does it make business sense to endanger your tourism industry, just to keep this barbaric practice [of exporting baby elephants]going? Zimbabwe is a beautiful and diverse country, with good wildlife populations, fantastic lodges and warm, welcoming people.

“If you have any doubt about how the world of safari-goers feels about this practice …. why not ask them? Use social media to reach out – and ask them. Then get clever people to quantify the negative response into likely ongoing loss of tourism business.

“You decide if the cost is worth the supposed benefit.”

Read original article: https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article ... nARsaiWbIU
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Re: Trade in live elephants from Zimbabwe -

Post by Lisbeth » Wed Jan 31, 2018 11:16 am

What a depressing way to start the day :-(
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Re: Trade in live elephants from Zimbabwe -

Post by Flutterby » Wed Jan 31, 2018 11:22 am

:-( :evil:

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Re: Trade in live elephants from Zimbabwe -

Post by Lisbeth » Wed Feb 21, 2018 11:43 am

CITES Ignores Illegal Import of Wild Elephants by China

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BY ADAM CRUISE - 20 FEBRUARY 2018 - ENVIRONMENT NEWS SERVICE

HARARE, Zimbabwe, February 20, 2018 (ENS) – In the last two years, China has imported more than 80 live Asian elephants from across its border in Laos and almost 100 juvenile African elephants from Zimbabwe. They were all destined for zoos throughout China.

According to wildlife investigator and film-maker, Karl Ammann, last year Laotian Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith publicly declared the trade in live elephants illegal under national laws.

Furthermore, says Ammann, the transactions should not have been possible under current international regulations outlined by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, CITES, a global regulatory body based in Geneva, Switzerland.

Asian elephants are considered a species threatened with extinction. CITES lists them on Appendix I, meaning that commercial trade in Asian elephants is prohibited unless the elephants are “leased” for non-commercial purposes or they originate from a CITES-approved facility for captive-bred animals.

According to Ammann, Laos does not have a single CITES-approved breeding facility.

African elephants from Zimbabwe are a different, although equally difficult, story. China imported 30 wild caught elephant calves from Zimbabwe in a move that took place on the very day China banned the sale of ivory.

The elephant calves were captured in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park on August 8, 2017. They were airfreighted abroad, according to a Zimbabwean government official who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal. The shipment was confirmed by the Zimbabwean Conservation Task Force.

Zimbabwe has sent three known shipments of wild caught elephants to China since 2012. Last year, one of the elephants died during transport.

The CITES Secretariat has now tasked a working group of nations and NGOs to debate the parameters of the live trade in elephants, which exists against a backdrop of poaching that has seen a third of Africa’s elephants wiped out in the past decade.

The working group is being chaired by the United States and includes, among others: Ethiopia; Kenya; China; the hunting lobby group, Safari Club International; Humane Society International; the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums; and the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Zimbabwe’s elephants are listed under CITES Appendix II. This means that trade is allowed, provided the Zimbabwean authorities do not deem it “detrimental to the survival of the species” and that they are “satisfied the animals are legally obtained.”

Zimbabwe alone determines whether the trade is detrimental or whether they are legally obtained. There aren’t any independent checks from the international community or CITES.

There is no mention in the CITES regulations of the welfare or ecological issues that may arise from snatching juvenile elephants from their family herds in the wild.

No Permits

In 2016, China officially imported 50 live elephants from Laos, as stated by the CITES trade database, while Ammann’s undercover interviews with elephant handlers, called mahouts, on the China-Laos border revealed a further 30 went in 2017.

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Wild elephants in the Elephant Conservation Center, Sayaboury, Laos, Mar. 30, 2017 (Photo by Garrett Ziegler)

Laos, however, has no record of the corresponding exports.

“The assumption then,” says Ammann, “has to be that a lot of these imports and exports were done without the requisite CITES import and export permits.”

According to a CITES-led investigation last year, “information was made available to the Secretariat suggesting the possible leasing of domesticated Asian elephants to China without CITES documentation.”

Leasing of domestic Asian elephants for non-commercial purposes is authorized by CITES, provided permits for their export and import are provided.

The leases, however, are anything but non-commercial. Ammann discovered that some zoos have paid Chinese middlemen up to 10 times as much as the latter paid owners in Laos.

So-called captive elephants in Laos sell for about R390,000 before being walked across the border into China. There, they are transported to receiving facilities, which buy them from the agents for up to R3,9 million per animal.

“That is a nice mark-up,” Ammann wrote in a previous article, “and makes it exactly the kind of commercial transaction which under CITES rules is not acceptable.”

CITES, however, has been slow to react, and when it has, the reaction has been ineffective. In July 2016, the CITES Secretariat noted “gaps in implementation” and recommended that Laos “improve its compliance ability and law enforcement of illegal wild animal and plant trafficking.”

In July 2017, a CITES Technical Committee visited Laos to investigate the trade in live elephants, among other species. Its findings were presented at the 69th Meeting of the CITES Standing Committee in Geneva in November last year.

The Technical Committee’s report found that the trade in live elephants was indeed illegal, stating, “It is understood that the international movement of some elephants … occurred in contravention of the national legislation of Laos and CITES provisions.”

But, while the Standing Committee called on Laos to improve implementation combating the illegal trade in animals and plants in other areas or face a trade suspension, no such recommendation was made with regards to the trade in live elephants.

China Must be Held Accountable

While Laos and Zimbabwe seem to be getting all the attention, Ammann believes that China also needs to be held accountable, if not more so.

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Asian elephant in the Guangzhou Zoo, China, Nov. 2007 (Photo by randomix)

“China has been on the front lines of importing iconic live species from rhinos to killer whales, elephants and recently 150 chimps – all totally illegal. Article VIII of the Convention dictates that parties involved in the illegal import be prosecuted, the animals in question confiscated and, if possible, repatriated. But this does not seem to apply to China,” he says.

Sebastian Korwin, legal and policy advisor for the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, says the equity of the CITES decision-making process needs to be called into question.

“There was a serious risk during the Standing Committee meeting,” Korwin said, “that poorly-funded developing countries were unable to fully engage and that important decisions were made by a select few.”

The live elephant trade to China is a particular example of the lack of equity at CITES. Elephants are a popular attraction at Chinese circuses and zoos and in some places they are still expected to perform. Conditions are usually poor, with the elephants often chained and confined in small concrete enclosures.

CITES, though, allows China to determine whether the facility receiving imported elephants is suitably equipped to house and care for them. There is no requirement for outside, independent assessment.

“The double standard at CITES, therefore, benefits the more powerful and well-resourced countries,” says Korwin, “this includes China and not the weaker countries, such as Laos.”

Read original article: http://ens-newswire.com/2018/02/20/cite ... -by-china/
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Re: Trade in live elephants from Zimbabwe -

Post by Lisbeth » Wed Feb 21, 2018 11:44 am

There is always something happening to cheer you up in the morning :evil: 0=
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Re: Trade in live elephants from Zimbabwe -

Post by Flutterby » Wed Feb 21, 2018 1:01 pm

:evil: :evil:

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Re: Trade in live elephants from Zimbabwe -

Post by Lisbeth » Fri Oct 25, 2019 2:10 pm

Campaigners outraged as Zimbabwe exports more than 30 baby elephants to Chinese zoos

2019-10-25 09:04

Animal protection experts at Humane Society International/Africa and Zimbabwe animal groups on Thursday expressed their outrage and heartbreak at the news that more than 30 wild-caught baby elephants held captive for nearly a year in Hwange National Park, have been flown out of the country via Victoria Falls Airport.

The news comes on the same day Zimbabwe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ZNSPCA), supported by HSI/Africa, Advocates4Earth, and Sibanye Animal & Welfare Conservancy Trust, filed urgent court papers at Harare High Court in an attempt to stop the shipment to Chinese zoos. Zimbabwe has exported 108 young elephants to zoos in China since 2012.

The news has made international headlines in the UK, US and Europe.

HSI/Africa has also released new, exclusive footage of the young elephants taken just days ago, showing them eating dry branches and walking around a small water hole in their fenced boma. These are the last known images of the elephants before their removal on Thursday.

HSI/Africa’s sources on the ground report that army trucks moved in to remove the elephants, and that ZimParks staff on the scene had their mobile phones removed, presumably to stop news of the shipment getting out. Sources previously reported that ZimParks officials - apparently planning to accompany the baby elephants to China - had applied for visas to China.

The shipment to China is in defiance of the spirit of a landmark vote at the August meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) at which a near-total ban on live elephant exports from Zimbabwe and Botswana to zoos was agreed. The new CITES rules don't take effect until November 26, so it appears that Zimbabwe is attempting to export the elephants before the deadline.

Elephant biologist Audrey Delsink, wildlife director at Humane Society International/Africa, said: "We are left feeling outraged and heartbroken at this news today that the Zimbabwe authorities have shipped these poor baby elephants out of the country. Zimbabwe is showing total disregard for the spirit of the CITES ruling as well as ignoring local and global criticism.

Tragedy

"Condemning these elephants to a life of captivity in Chinese zoos is a tragedy. We and others have been working for months to try and stop these elephants being shipped because all that awaits them in China is a life of monotonous deprivation in zoos or circuses. As an elephant biologist used to observing these magnificent animals in their natural wild habitat, I am devastated by this outcome. These animals should be roaming in the wild with their families but instead they have been ripped away from their mothers for more than a year and now sold off for lifelong captivity."

Lenin Chisaira, an environmental lawyer from Zimbabwe-based Advocates4Earth who filed an interdict to try to stop the exports in May 2019, and which has been working with HSI/Africa and others on efforts to release the elephants, said: "The secrecy around the ongoing capture and trade of Zimbabwe's wildlife exposes lack of accountability, transparency and a hint of arrogance by Zimbabwean authorities. They seem prepared to go ahead despite global outcry and advice.

"They also seem keen to go against local pressure, and local legal processes considering the case we launched early this year which is centred on the welfare and trading of these elephants."

Over the past year, elephant experts and wildlife protection groups across Africa have called for the elephant export to be halted and for all future captures to be stopped. The African Elephant Coalition, an alliance of 32 African countries, has called on Zimbabwe to end the export of wild elephants to zoos and other captive facilities.

Nomusa Dube, founder of Zimbabwe Elephant Foundation, said: "The Zimbabwe Constitution Wild Life Act states that all Zimbabwe wildlife is owned by the citizens, and right now Constitutional national laws have been broken. The capture and export of wildlife in Zimbabwe are unconstitutional and unlawful thus any CITES permits are illegal."

- Compiled by Riaan Grobler
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Re: Trade in live elephants from Zimbabwe -

Post by Lisbeth » Mon Oct 28, 2019 5:21 pm

Chinese animal rights groups outraged about arrival of baby elephants

POSTED ON28TH OCT 2019

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By Qin Chen and Juliana Liu – Inkstone

Animal protection groups in China have expressed sadness and disappointment about the arrival of some 30 baby African elephants from Zimbabwe, in a case that has caused outrage among global wildlife campaigners.

The wild-caught baby elephants, estimated to be between two to six years old, arrived last week at Shanghai’s Pudong Airport, according to two animal rights groups.

The elephants are believed to be undergoing one month of inspection and quarantine at an unknown location before being sent to zoos across China.

Keeping elephants caught from the wild in zoos is considered cruel by conservation groups.

Zimbabwean wildlife protection groups had filed court papers at the Harare High Court in a bid – supported by celebrities such as Ellen Degeneres – to stop the shipment, which happened just weeks before a near-total ban imposed by the regulator of global wildlife trade on sending African elephants captured from the wild to zoos.

Hu Chunmei of the Beijing-based Freedom for the Animal Actors told Inkstone that she was in the process of filing a formal request to Chinese customs officials to find out where the animals will go.

“This is such a sad, sad situation,” she said. “Of course we didn’t want this group of African elephants to be sent here. If possible, we would hope for this batch of elephants to be returned.”

Hu added that zoos didn’t have policies in place about the size of enclosures for elephants or how they should be treated.

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This photo provided by the Humane Society International/Africa shows young elephants held in the Hwange Game Reserve in Zimbabwe on October 18, 2019. Photo: Humane Society International/Africa via AP

“At the moment, Chinese zoos either don’t have standards in place [to care for the elephants] or have very low standards. It’s not consistent with the goals of CITES.”

States party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the regulator of the global wildlife trade, voted in August to impose the near-total ban in November. Zimbabwe, a top seller of elephants to the US and China, had opposed the ban.

Citing CITES data, Iris Ho of the Humane Society International said Zimbabwe had sold 108 elephants to China since 2012, not including the current batch of 32, at a price of $40,000 to $60,000 each.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping, center, admires elephants at a private game park in Harare, Zimbabwe in 2015. Photo: AP/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi

Kevin Guo, a press officer for Peta Asia, said the group was watching the situation and planned to initiate a boycott of the zoos that get the baby elephants.

“Elephants should be going on long walks with their families in the wild. But the elephants in captivity are often held tightly with chains, separated from family, friends, and partners, and everything that gives them meaning in life,” he said.

Zimbabwe (along with Botswana, Namibia and Zambia) has one of Africa’s largest elephant populations.

Its former tourism minister, Prisca Mupfumira, told Bloomberg in June that the country had “an excess” of 30,000 elephants and was willing to sell them to anyone in order to reduce conflicts between people and wildlife.

https://www.inkstonenews.com/society/ch ... le/3035174
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Re: Trade in live elephants from Zimbabwe -

Post by Lisbeth » Mon Oct 28, 2019 5:27 pm

ZimParks secrecy doing more harm than good

POSTED ON 28TH OCT 2019

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By Jeffrey Gogo – The Herald

Animal rights group the Zimbabwe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ZNSPCA) on Thursday issued two statements — and justifiably so — berating wildlife authority ZimParks” conduct during the capture, storage and sale of live baby elephants. Unnamed officers from the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) allegedly prevented ZNSPCA inspectors from examining the conditions under which at least 35 young elephants held in captivity for export at Umtsibi in Hwange were living.

A few of them (actual number unknown) were later shipped out surreptitiously in crates from the Victoria Falls Airport, allegedly under a Saudi-registered cargo plane to an unknown destination. It’s unclear how much each elephant costs, but the figure runs into several thousands of dollars.

Under the The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (19:09), the inspectors, which are appointed by the State, have free course to assess animal welfare at any premise throughout Zimbabwe. Their obstruction is an offence attracting jail of up to six months, it says.

The Act also “provides for the care of animals in captivity, which applies when any wild animal is removed from the wild and is held within a boma, transportation cage or similar restraining device.”

“We are saddened to learn of the exportation this afternoon of an unknown number of young elephants to an undetermined destination by ZimParks,” the ZNSPCA lamented in a press statement on October 24.

“Over the last week ZNSPCA Inspectors have made repeated attempts at gaining access to the ZimParks Game Capture Unit located at Umtsibi in Hwange National Park. All attempts were unsuccessful as there were specific instructions to deny entry to our Inspectors,” it added.

The animal lobby group further stated: “We understand a high degree of secrecy and lack of transparency surrounded this particular shipment of young elephants. Sadly, these young elephants were loaded under extreme temperature conditions with no apparent concerns given as to their welfare. We question the sanctioning of such an operation given the heatwave Zimbabwe is currently experiencing…”

Relations have not always been as sour. In 2016, the ZNSPCA and ZimParks collaborated in determining the (un)suitability of various facilities in China that were due to receive Zimbabwean elephants.

Following comprehensive inspections of the sites in China, the two entities, operating under a joint taskforce set-up by Government, concluded that “the inspected facilities were not yet ready to receive elephants and that further inspections would be required before any animals could be shipped.” It is not clear whether any other inspections were done after that.

The taskforce was set-up by former Environment Minister Oppah Muchinguri Kashiri, as part of efforts “to regulate export activities involving live animals.”

Now, “the lack of transparency, clandestine nature of this shipment and failure by ZimParks to uphold the rule of law” is a self-defeating experiment. Should ZimParks wish to avoid courting unnecessary controversy, then transactions of this nature ought be done transparently.

Clandestine trades provide critics with the ammunition they desperately crave, while creating doubt in the minds of neutrals.

The temptation is for the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority to go under the radar, perhaps in an attempt to escape public attention in light of the restrictions imposed by the global wildlife watchdog CITES on live African elephant sales.

However, the alternative is more plausible. Zimbabwe has a long history of exporting live animals around the world. And it is now common cause that the country has been fighting for the ban on raw ivory trade to help raise money for elephant conservation.

No message could better communicate Zimbabwe’s righteous resolve to benefit from its wildlife resources than maintaining full transparency in the capture, storage and trade of its young elephants.

Such bold openness would no doubt attract some critics. More importantly, however, it would generate the debate necessary to keep this conversation alive – a platform for the ZimParks to continue to engage while affirming and arguing it’s case publicly without a sense of guilt drawn from unnecessary secrecy.

By keeping inspectors away, the authority creates the impression that it has something to hide — or that it were doing something completely illegal, which might not necessarily be the case. Indeed, past ZNSPCA inspections had established that the elephants in captivity had been provided with adequate shelter, food and water, although they showed signs of stress.

But the latest turn of events is undoubtedly a public relations nightmare, which could have been avoided by careful planning. Now, the Zimbabwe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is even more damning in its assessment of ZimParks’ intentions with live baby elephants.

The society claimed to have laid a criminal charge against a senior ZimParks manager from Hwange for alleged obstruction while an urgent chamber application to the High Court is understood to have been lodged.

“ZNSPCA remains gravely concerned as to the obstruction, secrecy and lack of transparency on the part of ZimParks,” it said in another statement.

“The total disregard for animal welfare and the rule of law are a worrying development. We hereby call for a full-scale investigation into the conduct of ZimParks and its officers by all relevant authorities,” it added.

There are over 80 000 elephants in Zimbabwe, twice as much as the country can carry, according to official data.

Selling the excess elephants is thought to help eliminate competition and conflict for limited resources such as water, forage and habitat between the animals themselves, and with humans.

By degrading forests and destroying plant species, elephants are directly challenging the social and environmental dynamics in rural areas, which share borders with conservancies or national parks.

This is particularly grievous, occurring at a time when communities, already on the margins of society, have to contend with the dangerous impacts of climate change such as water scarcity and severe crop losses.

Forest degradation impacts negatively on climates at a micro-level. Carbon stocks depreciate, greenhouse gases emissions escalate and temperatures rise.

Livelihoods for communities that depend on forests for income generation or food are disrupted.

Live animal sales represent the most appropriate, logical and efficient strategy to address existing national imbalances in biodiversity conservation – but only when conducted with full transparency.
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Re: Trade in live elephants from Zimbabwe -

Post by Lisbeth » Fri Nov 22, 2019 1:06 pm

Opinion: Zimbabwe’s shameful export of baby elephants under the guise of ‘sustainable use’

Posted on November 18, 2019 by Guest Blogger in the OPINION EDITORIAL post series.

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Wild-caught young elephants are held captive in a fenced boma by Zimbabwe authorities awaiting shipment to China in October 2019 © Oscar Nkalain / Humane Society International/Africa

OPINION POST by Audrey Delsink (Wildlife Director, Human Society International/Africa), Keith Lindsay (Collaborating Researcher, Amboseli Trust for Elephants), Adam Cruise (Journalist) and Ross Harvey (Independent Economist)

Despite local and international protestation, Zimbabwean authorities have gone ahead with exporting baby elephants from the country. In a clandestine act, thirty-two elephants were moved from their holding pens at Hwange National Park during the night of the 23rd of October and flown out of Victoria Falls on a Saudi Arabian Airlines Cargo plane, Saudia.

The other five (of the thirty-seven originally captured elephants) were deemed too unhealthy to travel, which in itself is an indictment on the Zimbabwean authorities for their inhumane handling of the situation. On several occasions, the Zimbabwean National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ZNSPCA) was denied access to the holding facilities, further demonstrating the lack of transparency surrounding this matter. Coincidentally – or more likely, purposefully – the elephants were flown out of the country on the same day as the ZNSPCA filed an urgent chamber application to gain access to the boma facility to assess the elephants’ condition following several delays. A legal case is currently before the courts, which argues that the export violates Zimbabwe’s national legislation. The case is yet to be heard by a judge. Therefore, the Zimbabwean Parks Authority (ZimParks’) decision to push ahead with the export demonstrates its distaste for accountability and the rule of law. The complainants are Zimbabwean NGOs whose members have shown bravery in standing up to a brutal authoritarian regime. To label them as being in the pockets of ‘animal rights’ organisations is as callous as it is inaccurate.

The young elephants were cruelly separated from their families nearly a year ago and have been held in captivity since then. They have now been sold to China, presumably to safari parks near Shanghai, the apparent port of arrival according to the cargo carrier’s flight path. As ZimParks have not provided any documentation, the final destination of the elephants cannot be confirmed, though it is alleged that the group will be further split into 12 smaller groups. In line with past form, the extraction of cash from the country’s remaining natural heritage is thought to go towards paying off debt owed to China or paying soldiers’ salaries (or both). China should know better, as it has recently initiated an ‘Ecological Civilisation’ programme, which inter alia discourages the purchase of ivory. To be consistent, this programme should be extended to discourage the viewing of wild animals in unnatural captivity, especially elephants. To their credit, Chinese activists have reacted with outrage at the new imports.

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The baby elephants chew on dry sticks inside their boma in Zimbabwe © Oscar Nkalain / Humane Society International/Africa

A recent fundraising event for wildlife by the Sino-Zim Wildlife Foundation demonstrates the deep tie between Zimbabwe and China. Headed by infamous wildlife trader Li Song and ZimParks, and supported by presentations from the Director General and the Permanent Secretary of the Minister of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, with a “donations” slot, this event, held on the 29th October, is a clear attempt to persuade the world that these sales somehow benefit wildlife conservation.

It is well within the bounds of conventional science to assert that this exercise in terrifying, brutal capture followed by decades in sterile conditions of captivity is a fate worse than death, as the affected elephants demonstrably suffer post-traumatic stress disorder. Elephants are highly social beings who require interaction with other elephant companions, large amounts of foraging and roaming space, environmental richness and freedom of choice. Human removal of any of these factors is tantamount to cruelty and abuse.

For this reason, members to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) – at the 18th Conference of the Parties (CoP18) in Geneva in August this year – overwhelmingly decided that African elephants may no longer be removed from their natural or historic range except under extraordinary circumstances. This is the first time that the convention has recognised the importance of welfare in conservation. Despite detractors – mostly proponents of consumptive ‘sustainable use’ or ‘harvesting’ of wildlife – wailing that the decision reflects an ‘animal rightist’ agenda, there is no science that positively supports the extraction of a range of animals from their functional roles in natural ecosystems, akin to removing piece after piece from a jigsaw puzzle, or Jenga tower. There is also increasing legal precedent for recognising the importance of welfare as integral to conservation. In South Africa – still a hotbed for consumptive use and crude utilitarianism – the Constitutional Court ruled in 2016 that conservation and welfare are intertwined values. On the back of this ruling, the Gauteng provincial High Court ruled in August this year – shortly prior to CoP18 – that the sale of lion bones out of the country is illegal because it violates welfare considerations.

CITES Resolutions technically only come into effect 90 days from the end of a CoP, although this point is a ‘grey area’; sections of Resolutions that are not under Recommendation may come into effect immediately. In addition, the 90-day period is intended to allow time for States to confirm that national legislation or regulations are in line with the international ruling; not to allow a country to sell off its existing ‘stock’. Clearly, Zimbabwe rushed to sell its elephants before three months passed after CoP18 (26 November 2019), in direct violation of the spirit of the Convention. Being arguably within one’s ‘sovereign rights’ exhibits a mercenary mentality that undermines conservation. In this particular case, it is also immoral and obsolete.

A handful of southern African nations are crying foul regarding the CITES decision, especially because it complements another decision to maintain the international moratorium on the ivory trade. Rowan Martin has written, for instance, that CITES ‘does wildlife conservation no favours’. CITES clearly has its difficulties, but Martin’s misgivings have little to do with the governance and enforcement challenges facing the protection of species from extinction through over-exploitation. His is a philosophical misgiving, in which he axiomatically rejects any ruling that questions his predisposition towards consumptive use, something he deems to be a country’s ‘sovereign right’, whether or not it affects the survival of a species in other, even most, sovereign States across its geographical range.

It is this presuppositional commitment to consumptive use on which ZimParks has justified the sale of baby elephants to China. Hiding behind ‘sovereign rights’, the argument is that Zimbabwe answers to no one and can do with its elephants as it pleases. It further hides behind the view that there are ‘too many elephants’ which have exceeded the country’s ‘carrying capacity.’

These views must be debunked.

First, there is no such thing, scientifically, as ‘too many elephants.’ The concept is predicated on an agricultural notion that views national parks as farms that have a static ‘carrying capacity’, a term that has been applied to large mammals most commonly in the context of commercial livestock production. Martin’s perspective exhibits an aesthetic commitment to a utopian state of eternally attractive woodlands (normally with an idolisation of a perfect number of large trees). Almost any number of elephants, which forage naturally on woody plants, may thus be ignorantly viewed as marauding tree destroyers. Fluctuations of animal and tree populations, in the face of droughts, deluges or other disturbances are the prevailing drivers of highly variable semi-arid savannah ecosystems. Animal populations self-regulate in relation to their food supply through births and deaths, or dispersal. There is no basis for a fixed ‘carrying capacity’ for elephants, except in the mind of man.

ZimParks, confusingly, initially stated that the exports were not happening and that there was nothing secretive about it. They nonetheless took the opportunity to point out that the drought had killed 55 elephants, evidence somehow that there were tens of thousands ‘too many’ of them. To state the obvious, none of this adds up. As already noted, droughts are part of natural cycles that fluctuate, now exacerbated to greater extremes by climate change. Elephants, through their foraging, can change landscapes as ecosystem engineers, a keystone species. Their role is pivotal and irreplaceable. Left to disperse in large, dynamic ecosystems, they produce patch heterogeneity – uneven impact across a landscape – that keeps the system healthy.

Managing a dynamic ecosystem as if it is a farm necessarily obstructs the system’s ability to function through ecological processes. Culling, hunting and removal of baby elephants are justified as necessary management interventions under the premise that there are ‘too many’, but culling has been exposed, even by its initial proponents, as a cruel mistake. Hunting has genetically selective effects through removing the biggest and best animals and creates extensive social and ecological problems. Removing baby elephants from their families, in which they would be nurtured and taught life skills, is abhorrent. The idea that the revenue accruing from the sales will somehow be ploughed back into conservation is a deception.

Second, the ‘sovereign rights’ clarion call does not make biological sense. At least 76% of Africa’s elephants are shared across borders. The solutions to southern Africa’s conservation problems are not to be found in trying to generate short-term and unsustainable revenue from hunting and exporting the last remnants of our shared natural heritage. Rather, the solutions lie in better, regionally integrated land-use planning. Movement corridors that allow elephants to reduce local numbers and avoid conflict with people have been identified in, for example, Botswana, but these need to be actively protected by genuine community co-ownership.

Paper parks like the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA) are struggling to achieve relevance because the political will to work together across its five countries is lacking at important ministerial levels. Meanwhile, efforts at the grassroots level to involve local communities both within and across borders in ecotourism value chains and conservation-compatible agriculture have greater potential for improving regional conservation outcomes and rural economic development. Blindly supporting ‘consumptive use’ of wild species on the grounds that a nation somehow ‘owns’ its elephants or that there are ‘too many’ crowds out the urgency of building viable alternatives to the status quo. Rural communities are hardly served by exporting, culling or hunting elephants. They are served by carefully crafted plans that recognise the biological and economic needs of both elephants and people, and put money straight into citizens’ pockets, particularly for women.

Zimbabwe’s decision to undermine a significant CITES resolution is indicative of the contempt it has for conservation. Equally, China’s decision to import the elephants is a violation of its own efforts to build an ‘Ecological Civilisation’. Both countries are member parties to CITES and they would do well to observe the spirit of its collective decision-making process. Instead of dismissing decisions that don’t go their way as evidence that ‘animal rights extremists’ have somehow manipulated the CoP, they should respect the independent minds of two-thirds of the Parties present. Crude utilitarianism – the willingness to sacrifice individual animals to achieve an evasive aesthetically-defined ‘carrying capacity’ – has no place in modern conservation that should strive to be both effective and ethical. We have to do better; we can do better.
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