ZIMBABWE has captured 20 elephants and plans to send them to China, while further shipments of the animals will follow to France and the United Arab Emirates.
The country has no option, but to export the pachyderms despite opposition from animal rights activists because it has too many of them, a government minister said.
“It has not been an easy journey. Where we have tried to cull, we are told no because it’s inhuman and we agree,” Environment, Water and Climate minister Saviour Kasukuwere said Friday in a speech in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe’s biggest conservation area.
“Where you try bring in the hunters there are also sanctions. Where we try to carry out live sales they say don’t sell. We are between a rock and a hard place.”
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) criticised Zimbabwe’s treatment of the elephants, saying the authorities used helicopters to scatter herds and then captured the young.
While helicopters are occasionally used, elephants are usually darted with tranquilisers and conscious elephants are kept at bay while the captured animals are moved, a parks official said.
“These innocent and terrified babies have been traumatically torn away from their families,” PETA said in a statement on its website.
While Hwange has the capacity to support 15 000 elephants, the park has 43 000 of the animals. Overpopulation of elephants leads to damage to vegetation, which reduces biodiversity.
“We’ve chosen to be decisive,” Kasukuwere said. “There are those who complain, that’s your business to complain.”
Elephants can be sold for between $40 000 and $60 000 each, depending on age, and the revenue could help meet the $2,3 million annual running costs of the park in the northwest of the country, Director for Conservation at the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authorities, Geoffreys Matipano, said in an interview at Hwange last December.
At the time he said 62 were destined for export.
“Does Europe and America not have zoos that have elephants which originated from Africa?,” secretary for Environment Price Mupazviriho said in an interview in Hwange.
The shipments will comply with regulations put in place by the United Nations’ Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna, known as CITES, he said.