Saturday, 19 January 2013

VICTORY! Zimbabwe Elephant Calves Released

Five sent to rehabilitation park in Zimbabwe

January 18 2013

The petition mounted on AVAAZ on 6 January signed by almost 15,000 people world-wide supporting the on-the-ground negotiations has resulted today in the release of the five juvenile elephants in Zimbabwe sold to Chinese Zoos.

World Citizens for Elephants commended the National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority of Zimbabwe for their agreement to release the 5 remaining wild caught elephant *calves being held at Hwange National Park into a rehabilitation situation and not send them to Chinese zoos.

"We can confirm the **5 young elephants have been loaded onto trucks bound for a suitable rehabilitation centre at Umfurudzi National Park in the Zimbabwe High Veld." An on-the-ground contact said today. "Their ongoing care and rehabilitation will be undertaken by public/private partnership management at Umfurudzi, they will be rehabilitated to live wild lives"

The victory though is bitter sweet, the three elephants in China still need help. We continue to discuss the situation with on-the-ground contacts in China who are trying to assist the three elephant calves held in awful conditions at Taiyuan performing zoo and Xinjiang Tianshan Safari Park.

It is clear that the urgent situation arising from these sales of wild-captured elephant calves that moral and ethical questions arise about whether elephants; sentient, social and long lived animals, should be caught from the wild and sold for exhibition to zoos and circuses. Zimbabwe claims to have a right to capture more elephants and sell them to any zoo of the 177 Member Parties to the CITES Convention. The Zimbabwe Authorities claim that the sale of elephant calves to zoos fund the maintenance of their National Parks. They have not ruled out further sales.

A petition mounted on AVAAZ by Word Citizens for Elephants calling on the CITES Secretariat, the National CITES Designated Officers in Zimbabwe and China to stop the transport of the remaining elephants, to ensure the wellbeing of the elephants in China and to have the matter of wild caught elephants sold to zoos discussed at future Conference of Parties of the CITES Member States has gained massive international support, of the almost 15,000 signatures from all over the world a number of elephant experts signed the petition. The Secretariat has responded and clarified that the Secretariat itself does not have the powers to stop trade, and that the Governments of Member Parties appoint their CITES Representatives, communications with the Secretariat was copied to Management Authorities in Zimbabwe.

World Citizens for Elephants thanks the Secretary General, Mr John Scanlon, of CITES for his correspondence and confirmation of investigations to date, the matter of whether the CITES Scientific Authority in China has met the provisions of the Convention in relation to CITES Conf 11.20 and CITES ***Com 11.35 is still to be answered.

World Citizens for Elephants spokesperson, Jude Price, stated
We commend the release of the 5 elephants and put the Zimbabwe Government on notice that any move to capture and sell elephant calves to zoos or circuses will be closely monitored and vigorously opposed. We are not opposed to whole of herd translocation for the purposes of restocking areas of extirpation in the African Continent where those areas are under good conservation management and where the elephants would be safe. We urge the China CITES Authroity to no longer issue Import Permits for wild caught elephants.” 

CITES role is invaluable to ensure species are not traded to extinction. CITES stated in a recent communication "CITES regulates trade in close to 35,000 species of plants and animals, including many timber and aquatic species, to ensure that such trade is legal, sustainable and traceable. If CITES did not exist, there would be no legally-binding international controls over the trade in wildlife, including elephants. Such a lack of trade controls would undoubtedly have very negative consequences for these species." We certainly do need this vital role. 

It is clear that the welfare of individual animals traded under their systems are not part of all the Member Parties agendas, except for the immediate handling of transport. Following an exhaustive research of the CITES website and publications "humane treatment" and "acceptable and appropriate destinations" for traded live animals, is still to be defined. In the 21st century and in a civil society, this lack of animal welfare standards is not acceptable. The adoption by the United Nations (and the nations that are Member Parties to CITES) of the Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare or some other codification, would go a long way to rectifying this oversight.

Please download and use this image if you are posting about the elephants still in China. (Photo 18 January 2012)
Is there anyone there? (Photo 18 January 2013)
Lonely's condition has deteriorated in the past week (Photo 18 January 2013)

*Note 1: (Revised 20 Jan) Elephant experts state the elephant (pictured) in the Chinese zoo is between 2-3 years of age. The ages of the 5 elephants moved to Umfurudzi are yet to be determined.
**Note 2: Re Numbers of Calves: Original information that there were 14 calves still being held in Zimbabwe we do know that 4 sold to China and were transported to China, one died. There were  5 left in Zimbabwe awaiting transport. We are awaiting information on the NUMBERS, movements etc. But at this stage ALL calves held at Hwange NP have been released to the rehabilitation park.
***Note 3: The CITES Com 11.35 (in relation to CITES Conf 11.20) states “where the term 'appropriate and acceptable destinations' appears in an annotation to the listing of a species in Appendix II of the Convention with reference to the export of or international trade in live animals, this term shall be defined to mean destinations where the Scientific Authority of the State of import is satisfied that the proposed recipient of a living specimen is suitably equipped to house and care for it.”  
Sources: CITES and  
Elephants in Zoos and Circuses


Scientific American:

The IUCN/SSC African Elephant Specialist Group (AfESG) said in a 1998 paper after a debate about the conservation value of elephants in zoos that “the AfESG is concerned by the poor breeding success and low life expectancy of captive African elephants and does not see any contribution to the effective conservation of the species through captive breeding per se.” and Where African elephants are held in captivity, the AfESG believes that special care should be accorded to their physical and psychological well being.” This is hardly a ringing endorsement of the effectiveness of zoos as the conservation hub of loxodonta Africana (African elephant) species.

American Zoos
For an excellent series by on the American Zoo system and their history with Elephants the "Glamour Beasts" of the zoo world...

Seattle Times, Special Report
By Michael J. Berens
Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter
Part 1: Elephants are dying out in America's zoos
Part 2: Elephant havens face zoo-industry backlash