STOP THE IMMENT CAPTURE OF YOUNG ELEPHANTS IN ZIMBABWE FOR EXPORT TO CAPTIVE FACILITIES
In spite of the Pro Elephant Network communications with CITES representatives and the denial statements from wildlife authorities in Zimbabwe over the past two months, members of PREN have continued to receive credible intelligence from Zimbabwe that the capture of elephants for export to China via an African country will go ahead.
PREN members, in attempt to halt the capture process from taking place in Zimbabwe, authorised lawyers Cullinan and Associates to send an urgent letter to the CITES Secretariat, the Chair of CITES Standing Committee, Chair of CITES Animals Committee and the Legal Officer on the 24th August 2021.
Following on from the letter that the members of the Pro Elephant Network, published on this website the 10th of July 2021, on the 30th of July a representative of the SECRETARIAT of CITES informed the members of the PREN that the Zimbabwean CITES representative had refuted all allegations that the Zimbabwe wildlife authorities were preparing to capture wild elephants for the purpose of export to Nigeria and that they were not considering any such exports anytime soon.
This statement from Zimbabwe was in response to communications between the members of PREN and CITES in an attempt to confirm information that was reliably received that Zimbabwe was preparing to capture wild elephants for export to an African country.
Members of the Pro Elephant Network are furthermore, hereby, seeking assurances from CITES that they will intervene to stop any shipment of wild captured elephants from Zimbabwe to any destination.
Members of the Pro Elephant Network have written a letter to the President of Zimbabwe, the Endangered Species Import and Export Management Office of the People’s Republic of China in Beijing, the Legal Officer at CITES, the Secretary General of CITES, the chairperson of the African Union, the IUCN SSC African Elephant Specialist Group, the Co-Chairs of the African Elephant Coalition.
PLEASE FIND A COPY OF THE FULL LETTER HERE:
The PREN experts have been reliably informed and are deeply concerned about the imminent capture of young elephants for export from Zimbabwe to captive locations abroad.
The PREN experts call on the relevant authorities to immediately suspend any plans to capture live elephants for export.
The decision that “only appropriate and acceptable destinations for live elephants exported from Zimbabwe or Botswana should be 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 transfer in emergency situations”was taken at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) CoP18 meeting in Geneva in 2019. This decision was supported backed by a coalition of African nations and the European Union, this decision must be respected.
Honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan, Constitutional Avenue, Islamabad
Government of Pakistan, Ministry of Climate Change and Conservator Wildlife, CITES National Authority, LG RD Complex, 5th Floor G-5/2, Islamabad
Legal Officer, Legal Affairs and Compliance, CITES Secretariat, International Environment House, 11 Chemin des Annemones, CH-1219 Chatelaine, Geneva, Switzerland
Ivonne Higuero, Secretary General, CITES
President Felix-Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo, Chairperson of the African Union
Barbara Creecy, Chairperson of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN)
11 April 2021
THE PROPOSED IMPORT OF TWO WILD ELEPHANTS FROM ZIMBABWE FOR THE PESHAWAR ZOO IN PAKISTAN
The Pro Elephant Network (PREN) consists of an international community of diverse individuals and organizations, comprising specific expertise on elephants and captive elephants, from both western and eastern academies, including the fields of science, health, conservation, elephant welfare, economics, community leadership, social justice and the law.
We are referring to the Civil Petition No. 498-P/2020 pending before the Honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan which has resulted from Writ Petition No. 6653-P/2019 in the Peshawar High Court by Muhammed Hanif, Director of the Muhammed Hanif & Engineer Constructions Pvt Ltd. The petition seeks to secure a NOC document in order to try to complete the importation process of two elephants from Zimbabwe to the Peshawar Zoo in Pakistan.
CONVENTION ON INTERNATIONAL TRADE IN ENDANGERED SPECIES
There are strict rules under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) which are used to regulate the international trade in live elephants, these rules are especially relevant when the proposed trade includes removing elephants from their natural range.
CITES is a multilateral treaty to protect endangered animals and plants threatened by trade. The Convention was drafted as the result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (ICUN) in Nairobi, Kenya. The Convention entered into force as a global agreement among governments in 1975, Pakistan is a Party to CITES.
On the 27th August 2019 at the 18th Conference of Parties (CoP18) to CITES in Geneva, Switzerland, CITES Parties voted in favour of an amendment to a Resolution to prohibit the trade in live elephants from populations listed in Appendix II of CITES and taken from the wild, 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 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.”
Mr. Sami Bin Ali Sindi Director General email@example.com
Dr. Ghassan bin Abdulrahman Al-Shebl Chairman, Board of Directors firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Jaan Albrecht Chief Executive Officer email@example.com
Mr. Per Hojland Executive Director, Cargo Operations firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Rainer Mueller Regional Director email@example.com
SAUDIA AIRLINES P.O. BOX 620 JEDDAH 21231 Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Saudia City, Al Rawdah Street, Al Khalidiah District JEDDAH 23421- 2229 Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Saleh N. Al-Jasser Minister of Transport Riyadh, King AbdulAziz road P.O. Box 12628 Kingdom of Saudi Arabia PRTMINISTER@MOT.GOV.S
CITES DECISION REGARDING TRANSPORT OF AFRICAN ELEPHANTS FROM ZIMBABWE AND BOTSWANA
Dear Mr. Sindi, Dr. Al-Shebl, Mr. Albrecht, Mr. Hojland, Mr. Mueller, and Mr. Al-Jasser:
On October 24, 2019 SAUDI Airlines, via its subsidiary, SAUDIA Cargo, shipped 32 live, wild-caught African elephants from Victoria Falls Airport in Zimbabwe (1) to China on flight number SV3049 (2). We write to inform you of a decision approved by the parties to the
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) that restricts future shipments of this nature. Specifically, the transport of live, wild-caught elephants from Zimbabwe and Botswana is now limited solely to countries within the species’ natural and historical range in Africa, with certain narrow exceptions. We respectfully request that SAUDIS Airlines adopt a policy consistent with the CITES decision, which at a minimum prohibits the shipment of live, wild-caught African elephants to countries outside the species’ natural and historical range. Such a policy could include narrow exceptions when such transfer will provide demonstrable in-situ conservation benefits for African elephants, or in the case of temporary transfer in emergencies as determined by the CITES Secretariat.
As elephant specialists who are world-renowned, well-published authorities on elephant behaviour, sociality, welfare, care, and conservation, we are extremely disturbed by the actions of Zimbabwe and China with regard to live elephant trade.
At the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) 18th Conference of the Parties (CoP18) held in Geneva in August this year, Parties overwhelmingly decided that the only ’Appropriate and Acceptable destination’ for live elephants exported from Zimbabwe or Botswana should be:
“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 transfer in emergency situations.”
These amendments (Resolution. Conf. 11.20 (or Rev. CoP17) will come into effect at the end of November 2019, bringing the rules that apply to Zimbabwe and Botswana in line with other countries.
The resolution notwithstanding, in October 2019, the Zimbabwe government exported more than 30 wild-caught elephant calves that had been forcibly taken from their mothers and families over a year ago.
The operation involved elephant herds being chased to exhaustion with helicopters in Hwange National Park, with calves as young as 2-3 year-old forcibly separated from their families, captured and put into a nearby holding pen where they were kept for many months.
Despite the clear message from the international community through the CITES Resolution that such exports should end, the 32 calves were loaded onto a Saudia Cargo flight and exported via Riyadh to Shanghai, China, on 24 October 2019.
The elephants are now held in an undisclosed quarantine facility and, like previously imported calves, will most likely be sent to various facilities around the country, where they will be on display for entertainment making a total of at least 141 wild-caught elephant calves exported from Zimbabwe to ex-situ destinations since 2012.
These calves are now condemned to a lifetime of confinement far removed from their families, lacking the normal social, psychological, physical, and environmental conditions that are crucial to the wellbeing of highly intelligent animals evolved to live in a complex
social and ecological environment. Many of the calves will doubtlessly lead shortened lives; those that survive shall suffer in captivity for decades.
The conditions that the captured and exported elephants face are inhumane, cruel and unjust. The forcible capture and removal of wild elephants from their home ranges and social groups is archaic and unethical, and these exports offer no conservation benefits.
Published research shows that bringing elephants into zoos profoundly impacts their physical and psychological health and viability. Elephants adapt poorly to life in captive facilities. They have shorter lifespans and they breed poorly, if at all, in captivity. The overall infant mortality rate for elephants in zoos is a staggering 40 percent, nearly triple the rate of free-ranging Asian and African elephants.
Elephants are long-lived, social, intelligent animals who live in complex societies with extremely large social networks. They have the largest absolute brain size of any land animal. Neurological, behavioural, and cognitive studies have shown that elephants share characteristics of human brains and behaviour, displaying empathy, problem solving, emotional learning, autonomous thinking, planning and decision-making, self-awareness and self-control. As with humans, elephants have long-term memory and cognitive flexibility, and scientists have observed over 300 different behaviours, most of which involve gestural or acoustic signals of communication.
Young elephants are highly dependent for up to 15 years on their mothers and other family members for protection and learning of necessary social and behavioural skills. The disruption of their social bonds is physically and psychologically traumatic for both the calves and remaining family members. The trauma of attack, family separation, trans-continental shipping, and subsequent cruel training techniques has life-long impacts on the psyche and behaviour of affected individuals and their offspring.
AN OPEN LETTER DATED 11TH NOVEMBER 2019, ADDRESSED TO: THE PRESIDENT OF ZIMBABWE, PRESIDENT OF CHINA, PRIME MINISTER OF PAKISTAN AND THE SECRETARIAT OF CITES:
His Excellency Emmerson Mnangagwa President of Zimbabwe
His Excellency XiPresident of People’s Republic of China
His Excellency Imran Khan Prime Minister of Islamic Republic of Pakistan
The Secretariat of CITES,
In light of the disturbing recent captures and exports of wild African elephants from Zimbabwe for display in zoos and circuses in China, twenty-two professionals1 in elephant protection, science, and care have called for an immediate end to the live trade in wild-caught elephants. At least 141 wild-caught elephant calves have been exported from Zimbabwe to ex-situ destinations since 2012, primarily to China.
In the wild, elephants are long-lived, social, and intelligent animals2 who live in complex societies with vast social networks. Young elephants are highly dependent on their mothers and other family members for protection and to learn necessary social and behavioural skills, with African males only leaving their family group at 12 to 15 years old and females remaining for life. Any disruption to the elephants’ social bonds is physically and psychologically traumatic for adults and calves alike.
The recently exported Zimbabwean calves have been subjected to severe trauma at two levels. Firstly, the trauma of being removed from their natal herd. Secondly, after being together for nearly a year, the trauma of being split from their captured group and sent to different facilities. This second event may be even more severe because of the calves already compromised physical and emotional well-being. Once individuals have forged strong friendships and found comfort in each other, their forced separation can result in cumulative, life-long impacts on their psyche and behaviour. In fact, the captured Zimbabwean calves are certain to experience long-term adverse effects on their health and welfare as they grow up lacking the normal social, psychological, physical, and environmental conditions that are crucial to the wellbeing of these complex and highly intelligent animals.
The forcible capture and removal of wild elephants from their home ranges and social groups is archaic and unethical, and their export offers no conservation benefits3,4. Elephants adapt poorly to life in captive facilities, where they have shorter lifespans5 and breed poorly, if at all6. Research shows that the viability of elephants is profoundly impaired when brought into zoos, where infanticide, infectious diseases, abnormal repetitive behaviors, infertility, and chronic (and ultimately lethal) foot and joint disorders are prevalent.
The Zimbabwe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ZNSPCA) has been denied access to the country’s captive elephants, reportedly about to be sent to captive facilities in China. This suggests that welfare concerns are being ignored. The ZNSCPA is constitutionally permitted to access any part of the country if they suspect cruelty to animals. An urgent chamber application for access is likely to be submitted today.
A letter has been delivered by hand to the Chinese ambassador to the United Nations, urging the Chinese president to halt the reportedly imminent import of 33 captive elephants from Zimbabwe to undisclosed captive facilities in China (word on the ground estimates that the transport will occur today or tomorrow). The letter is penned by a group of thirty-five global specialists in elephant biology, husbandry, elephant management, legal and policy analysis, economics and conservation, most of whom are based in Africa. A similar letter was hand delivered to HE Mr Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava, the Zimbabwean ambassador to the UN, urging the President of Zimbabwe to stop the export.
In response to the news that a Chinese crew had arrived in Zimbabwe last week to prepare 33 baby elephants for export from Hwange National Park, Zimbabwean activists launched a last-minute bid to prevent it. After being forcibly removed from their families, the elephants have been living in captivity for nearly a year. The People and Earth Solidarity Law Network, a Zimbabwean NGO, filed a lawsuit in May 2019 that demanded details of the export deal. The case (HC4289/19) is before the courts but has not yet been heard by a judge. Their lawyers have sent a letter to the lawyers for Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks), stating that going ahead with the translocation “will amount to reckless disregard of the court process”.
Tinashe Farawo, a spokesperson for ZimParks, has denied that anything untoward is occurring or that the deal is secret, according to a report in the UK Telegraph. He did not, however, deny that the translocation is occurring.
Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations H.E. Mr. Ma Zhaoxu Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Permanent Representative
URGENT LETTER TO THE United Nations REGARDING IMMINENT IMPORT OF 33 YOUNG ELEPHANTS TO CHINA
We, the undersigned, are a group of thirty-five global specialists in elephant biology, husbandry, elephant management, legal and policy analysis, economics and conservation, most of whom are based in Africa.
We present our compliments to the Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations and His Excellency.
We are deeply concerned about the reportedly imminent import of some 33 juvenile wild-caught elephants from Zimbabwe to captive locations in China. Our concerns are based on our understanding of elephant biology, of international agreements and national legislation as well as public sentiment within Africa and more widely.
We urgently call on the President of the People’s Republic of China to immediately suspend and ultimately cancel the plans for this import.
We would greatly appreciate it if you could urgently forward our concerns and this letter to the President and the relevant authorities for action.
China has recently made significant strides as a conservation champion, especially through its dedication to the ‘Ecological Civilisation’ programme and subsequent leadership decision to terminate domestic legal ivory markets.