The Zimbabwe government has defended their decision to export over 60 baby elephants to China, the UAE and France, despite heavy criticism from animal conservation groups.
Walter Mzembi, the country’s Tourism Minister said that the country needed to urgently reduce its elephant population and that the programme was in accordance with international “treaties and laws.”
Speaking to the press, Mzembi said: “Our habitat is not designed to carry too many elephants that are in its environment. We have an over-population of elephants.”
The Zimbabwe government announced in December 2014 that due to an ever expanding population of elephants, it would begin a programme of exportation of elephants from Hwange National Park to try and control the numbers of elephants.
A total of 27 baby elephants would be sent to China, while 15 would be sent to the UAE and a further 20 would be taken to France, with each buyer paying a £26,000 for each animal.
Following the decision, both the government and Zimbabwean Parks and Wildlife authorities said that the step had to be made to ensure the country’s elephant population does not grow any bigger.
According to the two groups, the number of elephants was nearly double the amount that Zimbabwe could hold and their ability to consume was destroying the environment and food sources for other species.
Nevertheless, conservation groups have protested calling the decision “inhumane” and “wrong” and said that the exportation has involved young animals being violently taken away from their mothers and then exported in tough conditions to unfamiliar surroundings.
In a statement on Peta’s website they said: “These innocent and terrified babies have been traumatically stolen from their families and their natural habitat, only to be sold to the highest bidder and sentenced to a life of abuse and captivity.”
In 2012, four baby elephants died after being shipped to China from Zimbabwe died, which prompted the US and European Union to sign a petition against the exportation of baby elephants from Zimbabwe.
The Zimbabwe government has argued that they are currently suffering from a conservation funding crisis and that the funds appropriated from the sale of the elephants would be used to help with conservation efforts.
Speaking on 6 January, Water and Climate Committee chairperson, Anastacia Ndlovu, , said: “The selling off of live elephants will enable the wildlife authority to raise enough funds to protect the jumbos and other wildlife.”Reuse content