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Environment group in bid to stop tourism assembly in Zimbabwe

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Johnny Rodriguez

The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCFT) says it is making efforts to block the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly from being held in Zimbabwe until government stops the movement of wildlife into captivity.

Task Force chairperson Johnny Rodriguez told Radio Dialogue that Zimbabwe continues to violate international regulations on wildlife by exporting elephants from national parks to be kept in zoos in countries that include China and Belgium.

“At the moment we are working on trying to get the UNWTO General Assembly from taking place in Zimbabwe because Zimbabwe is not meeting the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) regulations,” Rodriguez said.

This follows concerns that have been raised over the trade in live elephants from Zimbabwe to Chinese public zoos. Rodriguez says the task force is currently seeking a High court order to bar government and wildlife authorities from exporting more animals.

“Four elephants have been exported already and we believe that the authorities have an obligation to deliver 50 elephants to countries that include China, America, Belgium and others,” he said.

Zimbabwe is this August expected to jointly host the UNWTO General Assembly with Zambia.

The taskforce has since written to CITES to revoke export permits for the elephants which have already left Zimbabwe. The petition also seeks an immediate halt in the trade of wild elephants to international zoos pending a full discussion at CITES Conference of Parties to be held in Thailand in March 2013.

“We request CITES, the world trade body responsible for issuing trade permits of endangered species to immediately halt the transfer of any more elephants from Zimbabwe to China, revoke any permits issued for trade of live caught elephants to zoos, cease all trade of wild caught elephants to all zoos pending a full discussion at CITES CoP 16 March 2013,” reads part of the petition sent to CITES.

“Investigate how CITES granted permits to Zimbabwe to sell live specimens to Chinese zoos, cease all trade of any species that are listed on Appendix I in any range states to all zoos, except for bone fide conservation programmes.

The task force all wants CITES to facilitate a suitable NGO to investigate immediate access to a suitable sanctuary environment for the three elephants in China to be housed together and also to ensure that the elephants being held captive undergo suitable rehabilitation and are released back into the wild.

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