News that Zimbabwe has captured dozens of baby elephants from the wild and plans to export them overseas ignited a firestorm of alarm in conservation circles, raising new questions about the policies that govern the trade of live elephants.
The elephants are reportedly headed to China, where they would most likely be held in zoos.
Revelations of the capture came to light late last month in a report by an activist group calledZimbabwe Conservation Task Force.
The task force alleges that China has “ordered” a number of baby elephants and other wild animals from Zimbabwe. Johnny Rodrigues, an activist who leads the group, says that at least 36 elephants have been captured, along with 10 lions and 10 sable antelopes.
The elephants are allegedly between two-and-a-half and five years old, a highly vulnerable time in their lives, when separation from their mothers is known to be emotionally traumatic and physically dangerous.
In a Radio Dialogue interview and in a Telegraph article, Zimbabwe officials confirmed the capture of elephants but claimed that the elephants would be shipped to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), not China, adding confusion to an already mysterious situation.