By Tererai Karimakwenda
07 January, 2013
The international body responsible for issuing trade permits for endangered species (CITES), has been strongly criticized for allowing the sale of four, wild caught, baby elephants from Zimbabwe to zoos in China, after one of them died from the trauma.
CITES went against its own regulations, which prohibit licensing the sale of endangered species for commercial purposes, by issuing permits for the wild caught baby elephants to be flown to two zoos in mainland China in November, 2012. The wildlife regulator is now being accused of turning a blind eye in Zimbabwe.
There is also a global petition going around the world, to save 14 more young elephants that are in Zimbabwe, waiting to be transported to China sometime this month. Conservation groups are trying to stop this by all means, especially through online petitions to CITES.
The three that survived the trip to China are currently being kept alone in unfamiliar surroundings. The temperature in their new home is much colder than the African climate they were born in. This constitutes “risk of injury, damage to health and cruel treatment”, which are prohibited by the CITES convention.
Johnny Rodrigues, chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF), told SW Radio Africa he was “disgusted” and “heartbroken” by these recent developments, because elephants are “just like humans” and taking their babies is just like kidnapping.
Rodrigues confirmed that one baby elephant had already died in China in December and 14 others are awaiting transport from Zimbabwe. He stressed that this must be stopped and pleaded with the international community to help.
“CITES is supposed to be there. I don’t know how they even authorised this to happen. I mean, not so long ago they passed an appendix that said no trade in ivory , but then they give a license to export baby elephants from their own home territory to another,” Rodrigues said.
He added: “These are the guardians around the world that are supposed to be protecting these animals. Now for them to actually accept and recognise and issue an license to Zimbabwe, the way I look at it there is a lot of greed and somebody is either being paid off or it’s just things that don’t make sense to me and it’s disgusting.”
Rodrigues explained that the 14 wild caught, young elephants awaiting transport to China will most likely be flown out of Zimbabwe after the required, three-month, veterinary quarantine period ends this month.
He pleaded: “We are asking the international community and anyone who cares to help us, prevent these animals from being destroyed. If they are going to die, let them die in their own territory with family members around. Elephants are amazing animals.”
In a statement the Conservation Task Force said: “We are saddened and disgusted that these elephants have been removed from their mothers and the African bush to live alone in a cold unfriendly jail cell in a foreign country. We believe the temperature at the Xinjiang Tianshan Safari Park is less than 20 degrees Celcius below zero. It is highly unlikely the elephants will survive in the cold when they have been accustomed to temperatures of between 30 and 40 degrees.”