By Zimbabwe Elephant Foundation – Zim Eye
Zimbabwe Elephant Foundation is campaigning for the 32 young elephants that where bundled up in the middle of the night, early hours of October 24 onto an awaiting Saudi Airways Cargo flight from Victoria Falls to Shanghai, by picketing outside the Chinese embassy in London.
We are astounded at China’s arrogance and complete disregard for Zimbabwe’s Constitution. National laws in the country of origin should surpass any overseas regulating authorities. The CITES permits that were used in this latest snatch-and-go incident, are invalid.
In effect, these elephants are now part of an international trafficking incident. We still haven’t heard from the Chinese authorities or the CITES Secretary-General, Ivonne Higuero, on the illegal import of these elephants.
We have been actively supporting legal recourse in Zimbabwe, challenging the legal status of these captures and exports going back as far as February 2019 where we backed PESLawyers (Advocates4Earth) in their challenge of Zimbabwe Parks Authority for transparency and accountability.
Infuriated by an inadequate response, we joined forces with six Zimbabwean NGO’s represented by Lenin Chisaira (Advocate4Earth) lawyer. In March 2019, we petitioned the Zimbabwe Parliament to bring Zimbabwe Parks Wildlife Authorities in line with the constitution – a debate that had gathered momentum.
On 24 May 2019, we were joined at the Chinese Embassy by NGO’s and activists protesting against these inhumane exports and the lack of transparency on the Chinese Zoo Deals on the back of zero response from CITES to our complaints of unlawfulness of the trade.
Nomusa Dube, Founder of Zimbabwe Elephant Foundation stated: “I came back on the 16th of October 2019 where I was refused hand delivery of my letter. I posted my letter on the same day, so they are fully aware of the issue’s concerning these elephants.”
Advocates4Earth’s High Court application for an interdict in May 2019 had been instrumental in preventing a previous attempt back in June 2019 to move the elephants. The State lodged their own application to overturn the interdict, but were unsuccessful.
Cartels and corrupt officials are trading unlawfully while regulators CITES are not only looking away but are intentionally burying our complaints.
The exposed footage of the Cites Secretary-General’s secret visit to the elephants awaiting transportation in Zimbabwe in June 2019 and her categoric endorsement of the trade by telling us Chinese Zoos are ethical and meet the satisfactory standards for wild caught elephants clearly indicated we were in big trouble. How can this whole live trade issue be regulated by people with a clear agenda? It’s not good enough.
With the great work of Network For Animals going beyond to ensure that the legal case was represented at the COP18 meeting in Geneva. Lenin Chisarira and Linda Masudze attended the conference meeting with CITES officials and member country delegations to ensure that Zimbabwe’s national law infringement went on record.
The last couple of weeks have been a roller coaster ride. Tensions have been rising, alerts that arrangements were being made to transport the Elephants. ZNSPCA Inspectors responding to concerns from the public, traveled to Hwange and remained on the ground for 10 days attempting to gain access to the Umtshibi Capture Unit where these elephants were being kept. The inspectors were repeatedly denied access and deliberately obstructed. Police charges were lodged and another interdict application lodged in the High Court.
The ZNSPCA inspectors who are government-appointed custodians of the Animals Anti Cruelty Act have legal access to all property where the Cruelty Act is under threat. So now we have two High Court Interdicts in process. We have written to the Chinese Ambassador in Harare on numerous occasions with supporting documentary evidence of legal proceedings and we are disappointed by his lack of response or investigation into this matter.
A diplomatic incident is on the cards since we are not going to cease with our endeavours. We will continue to come back to the Chinese Embassy. We will get louder and stronger. We want this whole sorry state of affairs investigated and those complicit exposed and ultimately dealt with.