By Jane Flanagan – The Times
Thirty-seven young elephants that were sold to zoos and parks in Asia are still languishing in confined holding pens in Zimbabwe nearly a year after being removed from their herds.
Concerns are growing for the wellbeing of the animals, aged between about three and six years old, which are trapped in a legal impasse between the Harare government and campaigners.
The elephants were captured in operations that began in October in which calves in Hwange National Park were isolated from herds by helicopters. Vets declared 35 of them fit to travel to China and two to Pakistan months ago but campaigners won a court order to stop them being shipped until the government provided details about their sale and destinations.
Elephant calves can be entirely dependent on their mothers for emotional and physical support until they are five years old; others can still be feeding from their mother until they are ten. “They will be very stressed and traumatised by now,” Joyce Poole, an expert in elephant behaviour, said.
Last month the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species imposed a near-total ban on sending wild African elephants to zoos. Zimbabwe raised £2.2 million between 2012 and 2018 by exporting about 100 baby elephants to zoos in Dubai and China.