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Zimbabwe sells elephants to pay wages: Conservation group

The Zimbabwe Conservative Task Force (ZCTF) has accused the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority of internationally exporting elephants to raise funds to address the Authority’s workers’ salaries.

ZCTF chairperson Johnny Rodriguez told Radio Dialogue that Parks authorities are currently holding two elephants in Victoria which are expected to be exported to China. Rodriguez said the elephants are part of an order that has been partially fulfilled by the export of four baby elephants to zoos in China last year.

“Apparently the reason the animals are being exported is that National Parks have not been able to pay wages of their employees for the past three months,” Rodrigues said.

Rodrigues said although five elephants were recently released to Umfurudzi Nature Reserve, the victory is bittersweet as there are orders for more elephants are being placed and fulfilled. He said orders for another 48 elephants have already been placed by international countries.

According to ZCTF, more animals including the two elephants are still being held and the cash strapped Zimbabwean government will be fulfilling the placed orders.

The ZCTF chairperson Rodriguez said they are currently being denied access to the elephants being held in a boma in the resort town.

“We believe there are another 2 elephants in a boma in Victoria Falls awaiting export. We have sent photos of the elephants to elephant specialists, Dr Joyce Poole and Cynthia Moss and they have both confirmed that they are aged between 3 and 4 years old – definitely not older than 4,” he said.

“This means that the elephants have been removed from their mothers while still drinking milk from them.”

Environment minister, Francis Nhema neither denied or confirmed the reports when contacted for comment by Radio Dialogue.

The international body responsible for issuing trade permits for endangered species, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has been condemned for allowing the trade of baby elephants from Zimbabwe to Chinese of which one died due to trauma.

“CITES is supposed to be there . I dont know how they even authorised this to happen. I mean, not so long ago they passed an appendix that said no trade in ivory, but then they give a licence to export baby elephants from their own home territory,” Rodrigues said.

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