Changing Planet

Zimbabwe Planning to Boost Its Sales of Baby Elephants, Sources Say

For opponents of Zimbabwe’s controversial plan to export scores of baby elephants, the stakes have just gotten higher.

More than 80 young elephants are being held in a capture facility in Hwange National Park, in Zimbabwe, according to sources monitoring the situation there. The sources report hearing of plans to send 27 elephants to Thailand as soon as this weekend, and 60 to China next week.

Zimbabwe’s government would not confirm the reports to National Geographic, and it’s unclear precisely who the foreign buyers would be or what their plans might be for the young elephants, which range in age from two to four years.

Zimbabwe officials have acknowledged launching an effort to sell young elephants—which they say can bring $40,000 to $60,000 each—to foreign buyers. They say this is necessary to reduce an overpopulation of elephants and to bring much needed revenue and ecological balance to their country’s struggling parks. And they say that selling baby elephants abroad is more humane than killing elephants to reduce herds.

Wildlife conservation and animal welfare groups, however, find the export plan alarming on many levels. It could subject young elephants to cruelty, they say, and establish a troubling pattern at a time when African elephants are being slaughtered en masse to satisfy the demand for ivory, notably in China and other parts of Asia.

Since mid-January, National Geographic has been communicating through an intermediary with the Zimbabwe-based sources. The primary source, who asked not to be identified because of the personal risks involved in passing on such information, says that more than 80 elephants are being held in groups of ten at the Umtshibi capture facility in Hwange National Park. Hwange is Zimbabwe’s largest park, at more than 5,600 square miles.

Read the full story on National Geographic News.

Christina Russo is a freelance journalist. For nearly 15 years, she has worked as a producer for a number of public radio programs, including NPR/WBUR’s "On Point" with Tom Ashbrook. Christina also freelances for Yale Environment 360, where her written work focuses mainly on wildlife conservation issues. She is the co-producer, with WBUR, of the nationally syndicated documentary on American zoos, From Cages to Conservation. She has written numerous articles about animals, including a story about caring for donkeys in Ethiopia; a veterinarian saving horses in Sonoma County, CA; an elephant sanctuary in northern Thailand; and the work of pre-eminent whale biologist Roger Payne for her hometown newspaper, The Gloucester Daily Times.
  • Grainne NiEidhin

    Now Thailand is in the Q to Buy, they cant mind their own Asian Elephants never mind African ones. These babies are being Captured and Sold because they are small and easily Controlled, made to preform Tricks for US by Beating and Cruelty, Larger ones would be too costly to Ship and Manage. Disgraceful.

  • Lady rider

    this isn’t absolutely terrible. Stop abusing animals and find other way to manage your country. You guys are totally insane

  • Ryan Bluemel

    Please let them stay with their mamas.

  • Melinda Mueller

    I went to Africa for the first time last year and I am totally hooked. We have already booked another trip for next year. But I will NEVER set foot in Zimbabwe until they stop this evilness, and I do wish all other tourists would follow suit. We need to starve them of every single travel dollar until they see that they cannot continue this travesty.

  • Cynthia A. Braito

    Horrible, especially considering Thailand and China are notorious for their poor treatment of animals.

  • Lisa Billings

    please tell me what I can do to stop this. This is unspeakable

  • Karin Nagi

    Save our planet and save these majestic gentle giants before they are extinct and we and the next generations will only be able to see elephants in zoo’s (god forbid these horrorplaces! ) and in historybooks.. Stop the greed and save the beauty! We demand justice!

  • Fiona Legg

    please let us know what we can do to help

  • Catharine Volpe

    African elephants are dwindling due to poachers..The world is losing close to 100 elephants A DAY due to blood ivory and you want to destroy a social structure for basically chump change??? There is so much pain when baby elephants are ripped from their families just so some country can continue to exploit them.. every baby elephant you export will be one less vital contributor to the survival of the species…Zimbabwe?? you are insane..

  • Carol

    This is horrific! The world needs to stand up the these cruel people and save the elephant and other beautiful wildlife. This just sickens me to know that these animals are being taken. Something has to be done to STOP this.

  • lee

    Ignorant, greedy people. The $$ gained will go into individual pockets and not help the country in any way. Thailand already abuses their animals and China just wants another source for ivory. These poor elephants will end up just like the Tigers that were covered recently in the Washington Post.

  • Sarah Levitin

    How in the hell can this happen when the people around the world has stood up and said ENOUGH and to STOP the ABUSE, EXPLOITATION and GREED!!!!!!!!

    This MUST stop! China has NO BUSINESS owning elephants considering their ivory lust and direct contributor to elephant massacre…they have NO respect for animals considering their zoos and deplorable conditions there …their continued nonchalance towards wildlife and their feeling of entitlement that they have every right to use an animal in any way the see fit…whether tiger bone….bear bile….ivory and these elephants kept in LONELY, HORRIBLE, DESOLATE, physically painful (CONCRETE PRISON) conditions!

  • Brandi Wilson

    My heart breaks hearing this. Nothing good can come of it.

  • Mary keenan

    what do you expect from a country that has no respect for its people yet alone it’s animals. Where is cites in all of this. If these Ellie’s go to China they will live a horrible life in captivity as seen with the 2012 shipment. China has a very bad track record in terms of human rights yet alone animal rights. They have no idea how to treat either Hunan or animal. They probable see it as one stop shop. Viewing poor creature in terrible conditions until it’s passed its usefulness then hey keys make stupid trinkets out of it ivory and hey let’s eat it. It was once said of the Chinese that they would eat anything with legs that wasn’t a table and anything without wings that wasn’t an aeroplane. I hope I have not offended the decent Chinese people but unfortunately there are those in all countries that are not decent. Zimbabwe along with chine are now on my list of countries to be avoided

  • Karen hibbard

    The human species Is despicable. I am disgusted.

  • Velvet Graves

    Where does it end!!

  • Victoria

    OMG!!!! This is so terrible!!!!! Here I leave you the posts of different petitions to sign in!

  • Lana Handal

    Please stop this. I will do anything to help stop this.

  • Sharon Bateman

    Such a sad commentary on the human race that we would let these majestic animals be slaughtered simply for the ivory trade. Unspeakably horrible.

  • Mary Keenan

    what do you expect from a country who has a bad track record in human rights so why do we expect them to care for their animals. It is the responsibility of the Zimbabwe govt to ensure safe passage of these animals and to me it does not stop here when they get on the boat. They have a responsibility to these animals forever. God help them as they are going to countries with equally bad track record in both human and Animal welfare ie China for example. Foreign aid to Zimbabwe should be stopped and the country as a tourist destination should be boycotted. I for one have cancelled my holiday as what would I want to see animals being rounded up and from their families by helicopter. This is not the type of holiday I want. Who will go to this country when all the animals are gone. Where is CITES in all of this. CITES it’s time you woke up and took action dis in no time you will be waking up and elephants will be extinct. Don’t say you didn’t see this abuse of nature coming

  • Lara Edelman

    The problem now is even if we can get them to stop the sale the babies have all ready been taken from their mamas. They are now orphans. They will need to be sent to the David Sheldrick Elephant Trust where they have successfully raised orphaned elephants. This is barbaric. This is an atrocity that should be stopped. On one hand, they say there is an over population but, everyone on the planet knows that is just not true. Poachers are killing elephants by the thousands.

  • Lorna Stewart

    What are we doing? It is a dreadful crime against nature to take these babies from their mothers, and I see some are going to China.
    The idea was to stop ivory getting into China, so what has gone wrong? Oh, I see, money!!!
    This is so heart breaking.-they need their mothers. I am totally disgusted. What kind of species are we? We have no chance of inheriting our Earth – we are the ones who are destroying every beautiful creature on it. Shame on us!

  • Debra Chiccone

    What can I do to help? This is outrageous.

  • Sharon Bigelow

    I have been to Zimbabwe and magnificent Hwange Park with it’s wonderful people,fantastic wildlife, and beautiful scenery. I will NOT return, and will not recommended it to clients. And I am sorry for the local people who have no say in this decision to sell their heritage of wild elephants.

  • Edie Drobny

    There is no reason for this!

  • Robert Mugabe

    The parks don’t actually get the money from these sales, instead, the money will go to the pockets of corrupt politicians who are raping the land and natural resources for their own gain while creating fiction that they are concerned for Zimbabwe and the failed state of the country. Zim will suffer greatly until there is nothing left thanks to these disgusting human beings.

  • Jo

    Disgusting greed! These poor elephants will be sent to far away countries, they will be beaten into submission to “break their spirit” so they conform…..

  • Mathew

    This new National Geographic article is horrifying on so many levels, more baby elephants captured than we already know about and captures still continuing today. Zimbabwe, a country with no morals, a country that condones cruelty, it has to now be time to up the ante to the next level. Tourists cannot tolerate any more of these negative elephant goings-on that continue shamefully in Zimbabwe.

  • John Malcolmson

    Th9s is disgraceful and must be stopped. Not only Zimbabwe for seling but Thaiilnd and China for buying them. If there were no buyers they could not be sold. Same on the leaders of all these countries and of all other Nations for permitting this cruel trade.

  • Julie Rawsthorne

    this is shocking and disturbing. I was born in Zimbabwe and I am ashamed of what this country is doing to one of its greatest natural resources. These are sentient creatures with emotions similar to humans. And when the bereaved female elephants of these calves turn on humans one day they will be shot too! This disgusting and cruel act must be stopped. May all animal lovers, and conservationists the world over rise up against this.

  • kim

    I signed the petition
    Please do too

  • Lee Rother

    This is nothing less that a war on wildlife, if not on humans as well. In many conflict situations sanctions or aid halted are imposed on the instigating countries. Does the will to impose such political and economic punishments exist?

  • Sue Brown

    Greed, greed, greed….all about lining pockets.
    These beautiful, intelligent, social creatures are condemned by humans – the ‘superior species’. Shame on you.

  • Sue Brown

    Shame on all of the greedy disgusting members of the human race, who just want to line their pockets – greed drives it forward.

  • laurence jean-baptiste

    STOP il faut interdire la vente de bebes elephants. il faut harceler le gouvernement du Zimbabwe pour qu’il stop la vente de ces bebes; c’est cruelle pour leurs meres et tout le monde sait qu’ils seront mal traites
    c’est scandaleux

  • Sue

    This is so wrong on every level. Why do people think that they have a right to take a baby from its family. This affects the entire elephant herd because a baby elephant is cared and protected by all. This shows the world that Zimbabwe and all the countries who buy these babies thT they have no humanity

  • Dougie Arnold

    All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for the good person to do nothing! The leadership of Zimbabwe have destroyed the lives of millions, turned riches to rags for all but themselves so when there is no wildlife left will they have time to notice while checking their Swiss bank accounts. Come on those in the world who have influence, surprise us and use it for good!

  • Helen Manfield

    Outrageous and cruel and so, so sad. More shocking behaviour by humans. This beautiful planet with all it’s wondrous flora and fauna will be destroyed before we know it 🙁

  • Inai

    Disgraceful, Appauling, Unacceptable!

  • gaby rojas

    Desolador, triste y agobiante sensacion de no poder hacer nada para lograr “EL CAMBIO”

  • Doreen Rasanen


  • Doreen Rasanen

    Anyone in their right mind must no by now it’s the chinese for
    one who are demanding Africa hand over their beautiful,
    wonderful animals to the chinese to be bred and kiilled for
    what they believe is worthy. What belongs to an animals is
    theirs and you stupid, ugly humans who believe different
    should die off this planet. How do you think chinese got their
    money – by working hard and honestly – No, it’s thru corruption of all kinds, prostitution, killing of innocent animals,
    drugs, and sex slaves…yes all these ugly, ugly things. We must do something to make this planet a better place to live in. People go to other countries to kill other people in wars for
    no good reasons, now is the time for people to go and kill the
    rotten people to save the good, innocent animals that do no
    harm, just live in peace.

  • Gillian Stone

    How can we stop this abuse of our lovely plant and wildlife ?

  • Mathew Yates

    Everybody is too tired of this now, that is what they wanted to happen, but the world will not give up that easily. Nothing will change when Mugabe is dead, there are still ministers with no skills like Saviour Kasukuwere making decisions there, you just have to read internet articles about that one to know what sort of heartless person he is, to his own people, articles out there about his murdering ways, and to wildlife which he could not care any less about even though he is zimbabwe’s wildlife minister, google him and read for yourself. It is he and not Mugabe in this particular case who deserves the karma that will come from this and all tourists will do the right thing and will not support such a cruel regime of political incompetence. Tourist numbers are already so low in that country, they will keep getting lower now, we trust and respect noone there now.

  • Anne Timpson

    Please tell us what we can do. So many people here can do nothing but comment or send a little money or boycott Zimbabwe. Is there nothing more we can do?

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