Photo: taken at Elephant Nature Park
Recently, China bought thirty wild elephants from Zimbabwe, in order to populate zoos throughout the country. Some of the elephants are still young and in the wild would still be very close to their mothers. After a long and likely frightening flight, the animals are separated and dispersed throughout the country’s zoos.
If you are a frequent reader of the blog, you know elephants are a social species that form strong bonds with each other. They are an emotional species with a terrific memory. These early life experiences are undoubtedly traumatic.
Fortunately, early video footage of the zoos’ elephants show they seem to be well fed and have technically adequate space and care (although cement floors and bars is sadly standard). A few years ago, this was not the case – in 2012, seven of the eight elephants imported to China died.
The capture and trade of wild elephants to zoos is legal, but there is little protection for the elephants – there are too many loopholes where countries can be “off the hook” if the animals are mistreated.
From The Guardian:
One of the conservationists’ concerns about the live trade is that there isn’t an independent body that adequately oversees these animals once they are captured and ultimately exported.
CITES allows live animals to be sent to “appropriate and acceptable destinations”. But the decision about what is “appropriate and acceptable” is left to the importing country’s scientific authority. It has to be satisfied that the animal is suitably housed and cared for, while the country of export must be satisfied that trade promotes conservation of elephants in the wild.