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Will Chinese Elephants Be Forgotten?

Published 01/23/13

The following article was published by the Born Free Foundation on Jan. 21, 2013.

We have heard from our colleagues at the Zimbabwe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Animals Asia the wonderful news about the release of the five young elephant calves destined for zoos in China. They arrived at Umfurudzi Park early Jan. 19. Here they will undergo rehabilitation and integration with other elephants within the secured national park.

This is good news for these five youngsters, but sadly this decision by the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority does not offer hope to the four infant elephants sent to China in November 2012, one of whom already has died at Taiyuan zoo.

The remaining three wild-caught calves are currently languishing in miserable conditions in Taiyuan zoo and Xinjiang Safari Park, reports Animals Asia. Animals Asia has also heard of many more deals being brokered by the Zimbabwe authorities and Chinese, U.S. and French zoos that could result in dozens of wild-caught African elephant calves being added to their "collections."

Will Travers OBE, chief executive officer of the Born Free Foundation, stated: “While it’s good news for the five elephants who will be returned to the wild, Born Free is appalled by the fate of the three survivors in China and the prospect that more may yet follow. The pictures we have seen of a concrete bunker and a featureless outside yard, together with temperatures that have recently fallen to more than 20 degrees below, are a nightmare scenario.”

We would urge the Zimbabwe authorities to abandon their plans to capture and ship any more elephants to overseas zoos and to agree that live animals shall only be moved to in situ conservation projects — in other words, to either restock previous wild elephant habitat or reinforce fragile wild elephant populations.

Commenting on the situation the ZNSPCA said that this latest incident has lead them to question the credibility of the assessment criteria applied by CITES when granting export permits for such transactions. They went on to say that “such criteria would appear not to prioritise animal welfare.”

Animals Asia said, “In the meantime, we are corresponding with the China Association of Zoological Gardens to provide advice and support to improve the lives of the three calves already in China.”

Note: Zimbabwe is hosting the massive tourism conference this year called African Tour & Travel Expo (A'Sambeni) — a tourism showcase for sub-Saharan Africa. A'Sambeni 2013 is a full-scale, regional, info-rich tourism exhibition held in Zimbabwe that accommodates large and small operators and includes specialised suppliers to the tourism industry. The emphasis is on adventure, cultural and eco-tourism. The capture and shipping of elephants into a lifetime of captivity in zoos around the world will almost certainly have negative repercussions at such a meeting.

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