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The Zimbabwe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty
to Animals (ZNSPCA) has been denied access to the country’s captive elephants,
reportedly about to be sent to captive facilities in China. This suggests that
welfare concerns are being ignored. The ZNSCPA is constitutionally permitted to
access any part of the country if they suspect cruelty to animals. An urgent
chamber application for access is likely to be submitted today.

A letter has been delivered by hand to the
Chinese ambassador to the United Nations, urging the Chinese president to halt
the reportedly imminent import of 33 captive elephants from Zimbabwe to
undisclosed captive facilities in China (word on the ground estimates that the
transport will occur today or tomorrow). The letter is penned by a group of
thirty-five global specialists in elephant biology, husbandry, elephant
management, legal and policy analysis, economics and conservation, most of whom
are based in Africa. A similar letter was hand delivered to HE Mr
Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava, the Zimbabwean ambassador to the UN, urging
the President of Zimbabwe to stop the export.  

In response to the news
that a Chinese crew had arrived in Zimbabwe last week to prepare 33 baby
elephants for export from Hwange National Park, Zimbabwean activists launched a
last-minute bid to prevent it. After being forcibly removed from their
families, the elephants have been living in captivity for nearly a year. The
People and Earth Solidarity Law Network, a Zimbabwean NGO, filed a lawsuit in
May 2019 that demanded details of the export deal. The case (HC4289/19) is
before the courts but has not yet been heard by a judge. Their lawyers have
sent a letter to the lawyers for Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management
Authority (ZimParks), stating that going ahead with the translocation “will
amount to reckless disregard of the court process”.

Tinashe Farawo, a spokesperson for ZimParks, has denied that
anything untoward is occurring or that the deal is secret, according to a
report in the UK Telegraph.
He did not, however, deny that the translocation is occurring.

The expert letter delivered to HE Mr Ma Zhaoxu, Chinese
ambassador to the UN, urgently calls on “the President of the People’s Republic
of China to immediately suspend and ultimately cancel the plans for this
import.” It emphasises that China has made considerable progress towards
becoming a conservation champion through its ‘Ecological Civilisation’
programme and decision to close its domestic ivory markets. In line with a
recent decision taken by an overwhelming majority of parties to the Convention
on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) –
that no elephants may be taken from the wild in Zimbabwe and Botswana and
placed in captivity – the letter appeals to Chinese authorities to allow the
captured elephants “to be returned to their only ‘appropriate and acceptable
destinations’, the natural habitats of Africa”.

Zimbabwe and China are not the only countries involved in
this questionable activity. Pakistan has reportedly applied to import 10 African
elephants from Namibia. The same group of experts have therefore also hand
delivered letters to the Namibian and Pakistani ambassadors to the UN, urging the
presidents of both countries to refrain from going ahead with any export-import

Global opinion has moved strongly towards condemning the holding of elephants in any kind of captivity, as evidenced by an international Indaba on the matter held in South Africa in September.