As an environmental group is suing the Zimbabwean government over plans to export elephants to China, the World Animal Protection (WAP) has called for a halt to these plans.

In a statement, WAP said: “Authorities in Zimbabwe must immediately suspend any plans to capture young elephants from the wild and export them to other countries for a cruel life in captivity at zoos and entertainment facilities. Being taken from the wild, to the stress of transport, and then being subjected to a lifetime in captivity in totally unacceptable conditions, is inherently inhumane.”

Additionally, the animal rights watchdog observed that between 2012 and 2019, 140 young elephants were exported out of Zimbabwe predominantly to captive facilities in China.

“A number of these are confirmed or presumed to have died, with many others reportedly dying during capture. No more elephants should be allowed to suffer this same fate,” WAP said.

Any further capture and export would be a blatant breach of a 2019 resolution agreed at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) CoP18 meeting in Geneva, which stipulated the only ‘appropriate and acceptable destinations’ for live elephants exported from Zimbabwe should be ‘in-situ conservation programmes or secure areas in the wild, within the species’ natural and historical range in Africa’.”

According to the statement, any plans to capture and export elephants to zoos in China or other countries, not only clearly goes against the international agreement that both China and Zimbabwe are signatories to, but fails to show any respect for these wide-ranging, thinking, feeling beings with highly complex social structures.

“Elephants are not commodities to be subjected to cruel, commercial exploitation. Their needs can never be met in captivity and they have a right to a wild life,” WAP emphasized.