The link between the sales of baby elephants and human rights abuses in Zimbabwe

Feb 24, 2019 | Commentary

By Nomusa Dube

Zimbabwe is in the grip of Chinese money and our leaders are selling everything to China for a Rolex and a Rolls Royce. As much as we don’t want to admit it, politics and wildlife are intertwined.

Baby elephants are being stolen and ripped off from their mothers and families, shipped off and locked up in cold concrete cages in zoos worldwide to live a life in captivity. Some are yet to be weaned and may not survive without their mother’s milk. 

Right now, 35 baby elephants have been torn away from their mothers and are awaiting export to zoos in China. According to The Times of London, the calves, some as young as two years old, are being held in pens in Hwange National Park while travel crates are prepared and documents finalized for their 7,000-mile flight.

This is the fourth time since 2012 that Zimbabwe has captured and exported baby elephants to Chinese zoos — a total of 108 elephants.

The baby elephants are being used to pay off debts to China. That money is likely funding the security forces that violate human rights in Zimbabwe.

To help win the human rights battle, we need to cut the funding by stopping the legal shipment of the baby elephants and putting a stop to the trade. The trade is legal under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), but that does not mean it is right.

A combined protest demanding rights, decency and humane treatment for both people and elephants in Zimbabwe was held on Saturday 16 February outside the Zimbabwe Embassy in London by group of elephant advocates highlighting the plight of Zimbabwe’s baby elephants and ZimVigil, a group protesting against gross violations of human rights by the current regime in Zimbabwe. The vigil takes place every Saturday afternoon between 2pm and 4pm.

Zimbabwe is one of the key elephant range states and home to one of Africa’s largest estimated populations of elephants it shares with Botswana, Namibia and Zambia. This is something Zimbabwe should be very proud of and should be a draw-card for tourism, the live trade of elephants will seriously tarnish Zimbabwe’s conservation reputation.

Zimbabwean wildlife trade is a multibillion-dollar industry that is being coveted by the political elite and corrupt and is run by the government in partnership with Chinese criminal syndicates.

In 2016, when China sought to import 30 elephants from Zimbabwe, a team of Zimbabwean inspectors who travelled to China to assess the facilities the elephants would be housed in found them inadequate. The inspectors reported that most of the zoos showed signs of poor treatment of the animals and recommended the elephants remain in Zimbabwe until appropriate holding facilities in China were completed and assessed for compliance.

Despite this recommendation, the elephants were still exported to China. Under the new government, they continue to be…and so do the human rights abuses.

The trade must stop for the sake of Zimbabwe’s people and its elephants.

Please follow and like us: