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Namibia flouts elephant export laws

Namibia’s environmental authorities confirm that they have issued the necessary CITES (Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species) export permit for the sale of five wild elephant calves by Eden Game Farm in the Grootfontein district to a zoo in Dubai.

Namibia’s elephants are listed on CITES Appendix ll, with a
restrictive annotation which limits the sale of live elephants to in
situ conservation projects.

“By sanctioning this sale they are undermining this agreement. The
proposed transfer to a zoo in Dubai clearly fails to respect this
restriction, so it would appear that such a sale would be in breach of
the annotation, and therefore might fall foul of international rules,”
says a letter addressed to the CITES Secretariat by elephant expert,
Michele Pickover.

According to Namibia’s environmental department the elephant export
is allowed under CITES, regulations as long as the trade doesn’t
threaten the long term survival of the species and will not be primarily
for commercial purposes.

But elephant specialists disagree: “With their elephant population
listed under CITES Appendix II, their attempt to possibly exploit the
text stipulated by the annotation and restrictions regarding live trade
of elephants under this listing is unacceptable and must be challenged,”
says Humane Society International’s Audrey Delsink.

“If approved, this sets a dangerous precedent; both in how elephants
are managed and how international treaties may be manipulated, and must
be rectified.” 

Pickover has also urged the secretariat to confirm the legal
parameters of Namibia’s trade in elephants: “Can the Secretariat confirm
that the intention of the annotation attached to the Appendix II
listing for Namibia’s elephants is to restrict ALL live elephant exports
from Namibia to bona fide in situ conservation projects, and NOT to
allow exports that are clearly commercial in nature, serve no
conservation purpose, and come with serious potential implications for
the welfare of the animals concerned.”

According to Namibian officials, the chosen five elephants – ranging
between the ages of 4 and 8 years-old – will be captured and removed
from their mothers before being isolated and “tamed” for translocation
to the zoo.

The capturing of wild elephants has been globally condemned, as there
is no conservation value in displaying wild caught animals in
captivity. The practice is both cruel and unethical.

These concerns are recognised in South Africa’s  Norms and Standards for the Management of Elephants, which specifically prohibit the capture of wild elephants to be kept in permanent  captivity.

“The sales of wild elephants can create a perverse financial incentive for other countries to engage in poor conservation practices, disguising the sales as conservation, wildlife management, or as ‘rescues.’” says one report on the capture of wild elephants for zoos.

Research has shown that elephants are highly sentient beings which are extremely dependent on family bonds and do not thrive in captivity.  The removal of calves from their mothers is highly traumatic causing severe depression and health implications.

“There is a critical mass of evidence to show that wild-caught
elephants do not fare well in captivity,” argues Pickover. “These young
elephants will still be highly dependent on their mothers and family
groups, and their removal will cause huge stress and anxiety for them
and the remaining family members”.

Read the full article on iafrica.com

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