On Friday 18th February 2022, Members of the Pro Elephant Network sent an urgent communication to the following recipients:
The Acting Director of Biodiversity Department of CITES United Arab Emirates, the Minister of Climate Change and the Environment United Arab Emirates, Minister of Environment, Forestry and Tourism Namibia, the Namibian CITES Authority, the Secretary General of CITES, the Legal Officer of the CITES Secretariat, the Chief of the Scientific Unit CITES, the Chair of the CITES Standing Committee, Chair of the CITES Animals Committee, EAZA Director for Conservation and Population Management, EAZA Deputy Executive Director, EAZA African elephant Coordinator, EAZA Elephant TAG Chair, EAZA Assistant Coordinator, the IUCN Elephant Specialist Group, Co-Chair of the African Elephant Coalition and the Kenya Wildlife Service
PLEASE FIND A COPY OF THE FULL LETTER:
EXCERPTS FROM AFOREMENTIONED LETTER:
URGENT UPDATE ON THE TRADE IN WILD CAUGHT ELEPHANTS FROM NAMIBIA TO THE UAE
In October 2021, 22 wild elephants were captured and transported to a holding facility in Gobabis, the regional capital of the Omaheke Region of eastern Namibia. The holding facility is located on the premises of a trophy hunting safari business called GoHunt Namibia Safaris, the business is owned by Mr Gerrie Odendaal.
The wild elephants are being held captive in preparation for export to zoos in the United Arab Emirates, possibly to the Al Ain Zoo, member of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) and the Sharjah Desert Park. According to reports this deal was organised by a South African wildlife trader/broker and a large amount of money has already changed hands in this clearly commercial transaction. Additional information, received by some of the PREN Members, claims that several charter companies have allegedly refused to ship the elephants to their destination.
A legal opinion was obtained by the EMS Foundation, a member of the Pro Elephant Network, in 2021. The legal opinion stated that it would not be lawful for the Namibian CITES Management Authority to issue an export permit under either Appendix I or Appendix II of CITES, nor for a country outside of the range states for Loxodonta Africana to issue an import permit, particularly because Appendix II does not apply to the export and the available evidence indicates that exporting the Namibian wild-caught elephants elephants to an ex-situ programme cannot meet the requirements of Article III for trade in Appendix I species, particularly the non-detriment criterion.
The removal of wild African elephants for captive use is not supported by the African elephant Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (IUCN/SSN AfESG). In an official statement they clarified, “Believing there to be no direct benefit for in-situ conservation of African elephants, the African elephant Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission does not endorse the removal of African elephants from the wild for any captive use.”
In addition, the Namibian Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism confirmed in public statement issued on the 15th of February 2022, that the elephants were captured in the Kunene region of Namibia. For the record, we are relying upon our sources who have always indicated that the captured elephants are from threatened desert adapted populations.
In a letter, dated 31st of January 2022, to PREN from the EAZA Executive Office, the EAZA Ex-situ Programme for African elephant (EEP), they stated that the EAZA Ex-situ Programme (EEP) for African elephants has no intention, nor need, to import African elephants from the wild. They also stated that EAZA “is not principally against legal and sustainable importation of animals from the wild to accredited zoos in exceptional circumstances, and when in support of population management and species conservation needs. The EAZA Elephant Taxon Advisory Group (TAG) and the two EEPs have taken the position that such circumstances do not apply at present and thus do not support the importation of elephants from the wild into the EAZA population. EAZA Members are bound to abide by this position of the EEP and TAG.”
Since December 2020 the Members of PREN have attempted to engage with the Namibian authorities regarding the capture and sale of wild elephants in Namibia. More specifically PREN members requested information on the Non-Detriment Finding and data on the population and conditions of the capture. Unfortunately, all communications from PREN, including those sent in August, September and October 2021 were ignored and no action was taken to stop the capture of wild elephants in Namibia.
Access to information and the right to know is the fundamental cornerstone of democracy, transparency and accountability. This is squarely a matter of public interest.
On the 12th February 2022, Namibian investigative journalist John Grobler, was apparently arrested for allegedly flying a drone over the aforementioned far, his request for access having been denied. Grobler was apparently charged with trespassing on private property under Ordinance 3 of 1962. The 1962 ordinance clearly refers to a person physically trespassing and could not possibly refer to the use of modern drone. The Pro Elephant Network joins protests from many national and international institutions which firmly condemned the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) for this action and AMPOL for the charges with with no evidence and the confiscation of the journalist’s material.