On the 16th of December 2022 the Members of the Pro Elephant Network sent urgent communications to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the CITES Authority in Namibia, to the CITES Secretary General, the CITES Legal Officer, Chair of the Standing Committee, the IUCN Elephant Specialist Group, the Co Chairs of the African Elephant Coalition and Parties to CITES who submitted the Revision of Resolution Conf.10.10 (Rev. CoP18) on the Trade in Live African Elephants.

Read the full communication signed by PREN Members:

Excerpt from the communication:

“You will recall from previous correspondence dating back to  December 2020, that the Members of the Pro Elephant Network (PREN) share a specific interest in the protection of the African Elephant. The expertise of PREN Members encompasses both free-living and held-captive Elephants; the network consists of scientists, academics, wildlife conservationists, representatives from wildlife protection and welfare organisations, environmental lawyers and economists as well as representatives from social justice organisations and indigenous community leaders.   

We note that at the recent CITES meeting in Panama in November 2022, Parties unanimously agreed that while the process for a dialogue meeting is underway to discuss the long-term rules around exports of live wild-caught African 

Elephants, any such exports will be limited to in situ conservation programmes or secure areas in the wild, within the species’ natural and historical range in Africa, except in exceptional circumstances where, in consultation with the Animals committee, through its Chair with the support of the Secretariat, and in consultation with the IUCN African Elephant Specialist Group, it is considered that a transfer to ex situ locations will provide demonstrable in situ conservation benefits for African Elephants, or in the case of temporary transfers in emergency situations.  

Members of PREN previously attempted to engage with representatives from the Namibian government regarding the capture and sale of twenty-two free-living, desert-adapted Elephants which were subsequently exported from Namibia to captivity in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) this year. 

PREN members specifically requested information on the Non-Detriment Findings for the aforementioned transfer, as well as any scientific data supporting the capture and subsequent sale, which has, to our knowledge, never been made public. 

As we are sure you will be aware, two legal opinions[1] have been published regarding the controversial capture and export of free-living Elephants from Namibia, which questioned the legality of exports of live Elephants taken from the wild to captive facilities overseas. We note that the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria publicly distanced themselves from the captive facilities in UAE that received the exported Elephants. 

Furthermore, the capture, sale and trade of the twenty-two Namibian Elephants to the UAE was raised as an issue of concern at the 74th meeting of the CITES Standing Committee in Lyon in France (8th-12th March 2022), and again at the 19th Conference of the Parties held in Panama City in Panama (14th-25th November 2022).

CITES CoP19 agreed to a moratorium, limiting any export of live wild-caught African Elephant to in situ conservation programmes or secure areas in the wild, within the species’ natural and historical range in Africa, except in exceptional circumstances on further live exports while harmonized legal framework is negotiated.

Members of PREN have been reliably informed that six wild-caught Elephants are still being held captive on Mr Gerrie Odendaal’s property, from which the twenty-two Elephants were exported to the UAE in March 2022. 

In the interests of transparency amidst global public concerns, members of PREN hereby formally and publicly request the following information from the Namibian Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism as a matter of urgency:

  1. Confirmation of the holding facility;  
  2. Sex and age of the Elephants;
  3. Details of the capture, its location and copy of justifications for it; 
  4. Copies of all permits; 
  5. Details of sale transaction between the government and private parties; 
  6. Report from the welfare authority on the animals’ status and well-being;
  7. Copy of Non-Detriment Finding in case of planned future export of the Elephants; and
  8. Information on the intentions for these Elephants going forward. 

We hereby request that: 

(a) The Namibian government immediately puts in place measures to prevent the export of the six Elephants to captive facilities, in recognition of the Decision taken by the Parties at the CITES CoP19; 

(b) The Namibian government prioritises their return to their free-living life and herds. 

Image Credit: G.H. Odendaal

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