Save Elephant Calves from Abuse and Exploitation
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Zimbabwe has kidnapped hundreds of baby elephants and sold them to China to be used as entertainment. End this exploitation now!
The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force has reported that baby elephants, between the ages of 2 and 5, are regularly being abducted from Hwange National Park. The elephants are then shipped to China to perform circus-like acts for the public1.
Humane Society International (HSI) sources witnessed the elephants being removed in army trucks, and said Zimparks staff on the scene had their mobile phones confiscated, to stop news of the shipment getting out2.
As justification, Zimbabwean lawmakers claim the elephants are disturbing their neighbors, eating too much food while the country suffers through drought, and are a threat to the economy. To rectify these apparently horrendous crimes, the government has decided to sell the elephant calves into slavery — to live out the rest of their lives as objects of entertainment3.
The elephants airlifted to parks in China and Dubai in recent years were sold for prices ranging from $13,500 to $41,500 each — a small price for the lives of some of the most caring sentient beings on the planet4.
The forest-dwelling and savannah elephants of Africa are still classified as a single species by the IUCN — despite evidence suggesting they are genetically distinct. These shipments of elephants to China are in defiance of the August meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), out of which came a near total ban on live elephant exports from Zimbabwe and Botswana to zoos5.
Tell the CITES Secretary-General to end this inhumane trade, and postpone any decision on African elephants until the IUCN has re-evaluated the species status of African elephants.
- Jeffrey Moyo, Anadolu Agency (25 October 2015), "Zimbabwe gov't allegedly sold baby elephants to China."
- Harry Cockburn, The Independent (25 October 2019), "Outrage as 30 wild baby elephants 'flown from Zimbabwe to China for lifetime in captivity'."
- Farai Mutsaka, Associated Press (25 October 2019), "Zimbabwe sent 30 baby elephants to China, says rights group."
- Columbus S. Mavhunga, CNN (14 May 2019), "Zimbabwe sells elephants to China and Dubai for $2.7 million."
- Humane Society International (24 October 2019), "BREAKING: Campaigners outraged as Zimbabwe exports 30+ baby elephants to Chinese zoos, HSI/Africa releases last known video of the elephants taken days before shipment."
Dear Secretary-General, CITES,
Thank you for the important work you do with regard to the conservation of endangered species. The CITES Secretariat has proven itself integral to the continued survival of earth's animals, making it one of the most important organizations currently in operation.
However, your recent decision to allow the capture, sale, and exploitation of Zimbabwean elephant calves has raised significant concern among conservationists. According to the CITES report on the decision, the move will not have a significant impact on the African elephant "species."
The Secretariat presumably reached this conclusion based on the IUCN's current assessment of the African elephant's conservation status. Yet the IUCN listing for Loxodonta africana also contains a taxonomic note: "Preliminary genetic evidence suggests that there may be at least two species of African elephant... [and a] third species... has also been postulated." The IUCN claims that more research is required before re-classification of the African elephant, and therefore the current assessment includes all elephant populations in Africa.
I understand that the large population size of Zimbabwean elephants can make it difficult to see how removing a couple hundred individuals would make a significant impact. However, the second-greatest threat to Zimbabwe's elephants after poachers is the misclassification, and subsequent misinterpretation of the existential danger these animals face.
Since we do not currently know how many of each species of African elephant currently live where, it is impossible to definitively say that relocating any will not endanger the survival of one species or the other. Therefore, I insist that you withdrawal your approval of the Zimbabwe government's sale of kidnapped baby elephants.
Not only is the enslavement of these calves ethically egregious, but (as far as we know) by allowing this travesty you may be facilitating the extinction of an entire species of elephant.