Zimbabwe just put its wildlife up for sale. What does that mean for the animals?
Zimbabwe is selling off its wildlife in what officials there are calling a conservation solution to a devastating drought that is depleting food sources for both humans and animals. The announcement last month from Zimbabwe’s Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (called Zimparks) includes specific instructions for potential buyers: fill out a $50 “Expression of Interest” form stating their intended use for the animals then mail it to Zimparks’ Harare office in an envelope labeled “LIVE ANIMAL SALES 2016.”
Zimparks did not identify the species they intend to “destock,” but lions, impalas, zebras, and elephants are some of the animals up for sale, according to Zimbabwe newspaper The Herald. Pangolins, pythons, and rhinos are protected against sale or hunting by the Parks and Wildlife Act of 1975 and cannot legally be traded. Elephant trade, however, is legal under CITES, the global treaty on wildlife trade, and a sold elephant calf can bring in anywhere from $40,000 to $60,000, according to National Geographic.
Zimbabwe has bartered elephants to reap financial windfalls before. In July 2015, for example, Zimparks made nearly $1 million when it sold 24 baby elephants to Chimelong Safari Park, a “wild animal theme park” in China’s Guangzhou province that is notorious among animal rights groups for its inhumane treatment of performing animals. In March, Chimelong placed an order for 130 more African elephants, according to Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force chairman Johnny Rodrigues.
Zimbabwe authorities have been open about their plans to sell the country’s wild animals again. “Our ecosystem cannot handle such a large number of animals,” Zimbabwe’s minister of environment, water, and climate, Oppah Muchinguri, told China Daily News in January. “So we would rather export and sell more elephants and other animals to those willing to take care of them.”