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Furore over Zimbabwe’s baby elephant exportation

Image by: Francis Garrard/ conservationaction.co.za/
File photo of a baby elephant

Zimbabwean authorities have maintained that they abide by international treaties when sending live animals abroad, following controversy over the possible export of baby elephants to China or the United Arab Emirates, state media reported on Saturday.

Geoffreys Matipano of the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority told the official Chronicle newspaper in remote Hwange: “We don’t do it outside international conventions.

“We have statutory instruments that make sure we abide by the conventions. Zimbabwe is not the only country exporting live animals and, only recently, Namibia sold their elephants to Cuba but there was no issue.”

Animals rights groups in Zimbabwe have so far been unable to confirm claims by the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF) that up to 36 baby elephants, plus lions and sables, are being captured in Hwange National Park for export overseas, possibly to the UAE or China.

Activists and vets say that a capture exercise of that magnitude would not go unnoticed by locals — which seems to have been the case.

Sources close to the agriculture ministry have told Sapa that the number of elephants destined for export may not exceed four this time, rather than the 36 originally reported.

The ZCTF claims one baby has already died in the holding pen.

“The minister says he has signed no permit for export of any animals to China of late,” said a wildlife activist in Zimbabwe, who asked not to be named.

“If people wish to fix the problem [of live animal exports] they need to tackle CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

Of course under CITES they’re allowed to export. In terms of the law they’re doing nothing wrong,” the activist told Sapa.

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