The EMS Foundation has been informed that rare wild caught Namibian desert adapted elephants, as part of a clearly commercial transaction, were transported from the containment area on the GoHuntNamibia Safari property located in Gobabis in Namibia and loaded onto a Fly Pro Moldovan Cargo charter plane last night (4th March 2022), at Hosea Kutako International Airport for two captive destinations in the UAE – likely the Al Ain Zoo−a member of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA)−and Sharjah Safari. The flight landed at Sharjah at five am local time.
It goes without question that there are serious welfare and ethical concerns related to the capture, restraint, trade and captivity of elephants. Elephant ethologists, behaviourists and scientists are clear – elephants do not belong in captivity.
Even the African Elephant Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (IUCN/SSN AfESG) does not support the removal of wild African elephants for captive use. In an official statement they clarified, “Believing there to be no direct benefit for in situ conservation of African elephants, the African Elephant Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission does not endorse the removal of African elephants from the wild for any captive use.”
A Legal Opinion obtained by the EMS Foundation, found that it would not be lawful for the Namibia CITES Management Authority to issue an export permit under either Appendix I or Appendix II of CITES, nor for a country outside of the range states for Loxodonta Africana to issue an import permit, particularly because Appendix II does not apply to the export and the available evidence indicates that exporting the Namibian wild caught elephants to an ex situ programme cannot meet the requirements of Article III for trade in Appendix I species, particularly the non-detriment criterion.
In a statement, the Namibian authorities confirmed that they had captured wild elephants which were sold on auction in 2021. They confirmed that some of these elephants will be exported to a foreign country. “We are signatories to CITES and we are aware of the international statues, the international law that governs CITES member states. Our law does not allow an animal to be exported to a country where we know the environment is not conducive for this animal.”
A number of urgent complaints and letters of concern have been sent by the NGO sector to CITES, and the Namibian and UAE authorities about the cruel capture, confinement and trade of wild elephants for captivity purposes. For example:
Shamefully, and indicative of the lack of accountability and transparency, there has been no official response to any of these letters from the CITES Secretariat, the UAE or Namibia.
The EMS Foundation takes note of the inclusion of the wild caught Namibian elephant subject matter on agenda item number 50 at the CITES Standing Committee 74th meeting in Lyon which will be held from the 7th to the 11th of March 2022. At the very least we demand that the CITES Standing Committee take a clear position on the capture of wild elephants in Namibia.
Amongst many other matters that require careful consideration, the CITES Standing Committee will the discuss the issue which is listed as agenda item 50, the legal opinion on CITES rules on exports of live African elephants from Namibia submitted by Burkina Faso. The published findings of this legal opinion are as follows:
As a member of the Species Survival Network (SSN), the EMS Foundation also supports the SSN input on Issue 50 – the definition of the term ‘appropriate and acceptable destinations’ (Report of AC SC74 Doc.).
The CITES Parties and the CITES Secretariat, despite flagrant non-compliance and numerous communications from the NGO sector as well as legal opinions provided to them from recognised legal firms in Switzerland and South Africa have failed to act or address the capture and sale of wild elephants into captivity. The consequence of this is that a number of elephants have suffered immensely and the CITES parties involved in these commercial transactions are allowed to continue with impunity.
Furthermore, CITES ignored the African Elephant Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission who does not endorse the removal of African elephants from the wild for any captive use.
The Species Survival Network has published a rejection of Namibia’s use of Article III of the Convention re: its exports of live African elephants to non-range States.
The export of live wild-caught elephants should only be permissible to destinations within the natural range state of the species, i.e. for bona Vida in situ conservation reasons.
The UAE was suspended once before from CITES and should be suspended again. The glaring question is: will CITES Parties do the right thing and enforce their own Treaty.
Images: Previous export of African elephants from Africa to the UAE Credit: Facebook
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