A baby elephant captured from its mother at Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe has died while waiting for export.
Now an international coalition of animal welfare bodies has called on the Zimbabwe government to cancel all elephant export agreements, and has urged CITES, the Convention for the Trade in Endangered Species, to revoke all issued permits.
The death of the calf, one of 36 that were caught, follows an exposé by the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force that revealed that the Zimbabwe and Chinese governments had made a secret deal to circumvent trade regulations and export up to 100 baby elephants to China.
After warning more than a week ago that removing calves from their mothers could kill them, ZCTF chairman Johnny Rodrigues issued a statement saying there would now be “major repercussions for both Zimbabwe and China, as well as for CITES”.
“The battle lines have been drawn. Thirty-five more calves are currently being held in confinement at the Mtshibi game capture centre near Hwange and we are calling for their immediate release to a wild sanctuary where they can be rehabilitated.”
Zimbabwe’s minister for the environment, Saviour Kasukuwere, called Rodrigues, “a racist” last week, but he also admitted Zimbabwean elephants had been captured for export, but that they were destined for the UAE , not China.
Conservationists have warned that the slaughter of Africa’s elephants and the illegal trade in ivory in China and the Far East are “out of control” and could push wild elephant numbers to extinction within a generation.
Soaring quantities of ivory are being sold in rapidly growing numbers of shops in China, with over 100000 elephants being poached and killed from 2010 to 2012, a joint report from the Save the Elephants and The Aspinall Foundation campaign groups said.
“Skyrocketing demand for ivory in China – the wholesale price of raw elephant tusks has tripled in just four years since 2010 – has sparked a booming trade in smuggled ivory that is driving the unsustainable killing of elephants in Africa,” said the report, which was released in Nairobi recently.