Wild baby elephants captured in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe have reportedly been exported to two safari parks in China.
The 31 elephants were captured in August 2017 and footage of the operation was secretly released to the media. The shipment was confirmed by the Zimbabwean Conservation Task Force (ZCTF).
A government official is reported to have said that the elephants aged between three and six years old were traumatized and some were weak with open sores on their bodies.
The Guardian published the disturbing footage of the elephants being captured showing one of the calves being kicked in the head.
Zimbabwe has sent at least three shipments of wild captured elephants to China since 2012. One of the traumatized elephants died during transportation.
International trade in live elephants is legal, but is being debated at the highest level. At a Cites meeting in Geneva representatives from the African Elephant Coalition raised serious concerns on the trade.
Peter Stroud, a former curator of the Melbourne Zoo who was involved in sourcing elephants from Thailand, calls moving wild-caught animals to zoos “unconscionable”.
“Young elephants will never develop naturally as socially and ecologically functioning beings in zoos. They will face a very long and very slow process of a mental and physiological breakdown resulting inevitably in chronic physical and mental abnormality, disease and premature death.”
The ZCTF documented the transport on its Facebook page.
At the end of its post, ZCTF wrote: “We would like to thank everyone who tried to assist in stopping this terrible event from taking place but unfortunately, we have failed yet again.”
The capture of wild elephants for permanent captivity is illegal in South Africa.