The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF), a non-profit wildlife organization , has issued a disturbing report claiming that wildlife in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park is being abducted and shipped to Chinese zoos.
ZCTF first highlighted this issue in April earlier this year when they were tipped that an Australian national in collaboration with a Zimbabwean were looking for elephants in Hwange to earmark for Chinese zoos. Now eye-witness reports from tourists visiting the park are coming in about blatant live captures of baby elephants. The elephants are then taken to Mtshibi Capture Unit about 7 kilometres from Hwange’s Main Camp. So far 34 baby elephants between the ages of 2 ½ and 5 years old, 7 lions and about 10 sable antelope have been rounded up for shipping but investigators were not allowed to get close enough to the compound to photograph as security there has become extremely tight. It is expected that the animals will be shipped by container trucks to Maputo in Mozambique where they will be transferred to a livestock freighter and sent on an arduous sea passage to China.
ZCTF Chairperson Johnny Rodrigues states that the baby elephants ‘quite likely won’t survive the trip.’ Even if they do, Chinese zoos are notorious for mistreatment of animals that include public feeding of live animals to overfed predators, electric prodding and goading by throwing stones and other objects to get the animals to respond in front of visitors. This is not the first time baby elephants have been abducted for Chinese zoos; in 2013 three young Zimbabwean elephants were transported to China. Having endured the long journey, they were exposed to freezing weather conditions and confinement. One died as a result and the remaining two are now in poor health. There were six more elephants earmarked but they were returned to the wild after ZCTF brought a high court application against the wildlife management authority.
Earlier in the year a damning report by Born Free USA noted that Zimbabwe has particularly close business ties with China and there have been allegations that ivory has also been flown to China through the Chinese Embassy in Harare. Furthermore, President Mugabe has on more than one occasion announced that Zimbabwe’s wildlife needs to start paying dividends. This sentiment has been followed up by top-ranking officials and one of them, Masvingo’s Governor Titus Maluleke, went on record saying: ‘We are not interested in wildlife…we want cash.’
But, as Rodrigues points out, ‘Zimbabwe is stealing from the future generation’s natural resources.’ Not only that, he goes on to say, the animals ‘are now being sentenced to a life of inhuman treatment and the only crime they have committed is being born in Zimbabwe. This is very traumatic, not only for the baby elephants but also for their families. We have to try and stop this export from taking place.’