The Animal Survival International (formerly Political Animal Lobby)’s sister organization Network for Animals (NFA) has been working for four years to end the trade in baby elephants to China. CITES, the international organsation that controls the trade in wild animals, has now passed a resolution to end the trade.
The new resolution means zoos will no longer be able to import wild-caught African elephants to the U.S., China and many other countries beyond the elephants’ natural habitat. The resolution passed by a vote of 87 in favor, 29 against and 25 abstaining. The U.S. voted against it.
Zimbabwe is holding 37 wild baby elephants in pens at the Hwange National Park, intending to sell 35 to China and two to Pakistan. These elephants will no longer face lives in zoos.
David Barritt, NFA’s chief campaigner, welcomed the decision by CITES saying it was a major victory for animals. “The Zimbabwe elephants being held captive were destined for lives of hell in zoos, but they have been spared this fate.
“We now call upon the Zimbabwe government to immediately begin to reintroduce the elephants to the wild.”
NFA exposed the trade in very young elephants from Zimbabwe to Chinese zoos in 2015, when Zimbabwe sold 24 baby elephants to China to be kept in captivity at the Chimelong Safari Park, a zoo where elephants are forced to perform circus tricks for visitors. The babies were between two and five years old and still dependent on their mothers for milk.
NFA sent a team to China which documented the manifest. The elephants were destined for Chimelong Safari Park in Guangzhou in China, but in fact they were sent to the Qīngyuǎn City Quarantine Facility in Qīngyuǎn, which is owned by Chimelong.
NFA obtained photographs and video showing that the elephants are being held in small, barred sheds with only a small concrete area in which to exercise, and are without ready access to water.
NFA also provided proof that the elephants had been exported on irregular CITES permits.
In December 2018, Zimbabwe captured 35 more babies for export to China. NFA supports a group of environmental lawyers called The People and Earth Solidarity Law Network (PESLawyers), which mounted a legal challenge to oppose the export, and enabled them to send an official delegation to the CITES conference where they played a vital role in seeking an end to the international trade in elephants.
“We are very pleased to have been able to help Zimbabwe’s elephants live lives of freedom and salute the vital work of PESLawyers,” said Barritt.