Last year, Zimbabwe sold 24 baby elephants to China for zoos and circuses in the name of ‘wildlife conservation’. This year, Zimbabwe intends on selling more. The live export trade means that elephant calves will be separated from their mothers and sent to China in cargo holds by air.
China’s extremely sketchy history of animal welfare practice offers no reassurance for the care of the African elephants that will end up on the other side. One needs only visit a Chinese zoo to understand the dire state of these institutions, and the unnecessary despair and suffering that these captive animals endure for a lifetime.
Moreover, the practice of sending creatures to other countries to conserve wildlife is questionable. It is, in essence, a revenue raising strategy executed at the expense of families being torn apart, a lifetime of stress for the elephants, and much else besides. Elephants also live to about 70 years in the wild. In captivity, 40 years.
At the end of the day, if we are to remove the politics and debate of strategic effectiveness from the equation- baby elephants need their mothers. And elephants belong in the wild. They are not a commodity, and no one should have the right to deem them as ‘saleable’ for a purpose that humans artificially designate to these beautiful creatures.