Pakistan’s elephant deal cancelled

Nov 2, 2019 | News

Ellanie Smit, The Namibian Sun

The environment ministry has confirmed that there is no longer any application under consideration to export elephants to Pakistan.

Ministry spokesperson Romeo Muyunda told Namibian Sun yesterday that a permit to import elephants from Namibia had been revoked.

The ministry earlier this month confirmed that it was reviewing an application by Pakistan to import ten elephants, but that no export permit had been issued yet.

“One of the conditions for us to issue an export permit is for Pakistan to have an import permit. As this has been cancelled there is no application anymore,” Muyunda told Namibian Sun.

A Pakistan daily newspaper, The Express Tribune, first reported at the beginning of October that the Lahore High Court in Pakistan had directed the Punjab Environment Protection Department to issue a no-objection certificate (NOC) for importing an elephant for the Lahore Zoo.

“Earlier, Namibia’s government had granted a licence for the animals, but the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) permit was not issued by the Pakistani government,” according to the newspaper.

Lahore Zoo’s only female elephant, Suzi, died in May 2017. Since then it has been trying to procure another elephant for the zoo. In May this year it was reported that there were only five elephants in Pakistan; one Asian and four African elephants.

All four of the African elephants are at zoos in Karachi, while the Asian elephant is housed at Islamabad Zoo.

Following the reports that Pakistan wanted to import elephants from Namibia there has been growing concern from conservation groups.

A group of 35 global specialists in elephant biology, husbandry, elephant management, legal and policy analysis, economics and conservation, most of whom are based in Africa, expressed their concerns to both the Namibian and Pakistan governments.

The Elizabeth Margaret Steyn (EMS) Foundation said in its letter that globally public sentiment was running against the keeping of this iconic African species in captivity.

According to the group previous exports of wild elephants from Africa generated considerable public backlash around the world, and continued actions in this regard would damage Namibia’s reputation as a legitimate voice in nature conservation

“We call on the government of Namibia to act in accordance with elephant biology, international and national legislation, and widespread and ever-increasing worldwide public opinion, and not to approve any application for the export of elephants into captivity,” the group said.

Cites recently decided to impose a near-total ban on sending African elephants captured in the wild to zoos.

Representatives agreed that elephants should remain in their “natural and historical range in Africa, except in exceptional circumstances where … it is considered that a transfer to ex-situ locations will provide demonstrable in-situ conservation benefits for African elephants”.

In such cases, decisions should only be made in consultation with the Cites animals committee, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s elephant specialist group.

African elephants caught in the wild and already in zoos could be transferred to other facilities outside Africa, Cites said.

However, the importing country must come up with solid reasons for procurement of wild animals and prove that the importer country has safe and friendly habitats for the elephants.