Advocates4Earth in bid to stop elephant exports

Advocates4Earth Trust, a non-profit, public interest environmental law, climate and wildlife justice organisation has approached the High Court seeking an order banning elephant exports without proper consultations with relevant stakeholders.

Zimbabwe’s sale of baby elephants has been shrouded in secrecy, with conservationists believing hundreds have been shipped to Asian zoos since 2012.

In an application dated 13 July 2021, filed at the Harare High Court Advocates4Earth, executive director, Lenin Tinashe Chisaira, represented by Jiti Law Chambers said his application seeks to enforce Environmental rights as enshrined in section 73 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, 2013 and ensure that the government and its agencies respect and comply with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

“Applicant seeks by way of a declaratur the following relief 5.1.1. In accordance with provisions of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and its Appendices, the sale and translocation of elephants or endangered species to locations outside Africa without consultations with the Animals Committee, through its Chair with the support of the Secretariat, and in consultation with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) elephant specialist group is contrary to law and a breach of Applicants Environmental rights,” said Chisaira.

The applicant cited Zimbabwe Wildlife and Management Authority (Zimparks), Zimparks director-general, Zimparks head of veterinary and capture unit, Zimparks Hwange Zambezi cluster manager and Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister as first to fifth respondents.

He said his application for a declaratory order was brought under section 85 (1) (a) and (d) of the constitution of Zimbabwe adding there is likelihood that his organisation might be hindered in carrying on its mandate if a pronouncement of the law is not made pertaining to the provisions of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

According to the CITES trade database, and information on the latest 2019 exports, between 2012 and 2019, Zimbabwe exported 140 juvenile elephants to China, and 4 to the United Arab Emirates,” argued Chisaira.

“Of these, some 22 are now dead or presumed to be dead. Reports indicate that many others have died in the process of capture and preparation for export. All exports have been characterised by lack of transparency. The captures and transportation have always been conducted in secrecy, and there have been reports that high-level government members have been using the money to pay off government debts. Most of the information available has come from undercover investigations, further illustrating the opaque, sensitive and secret nature of these transactions.”

He added: “We consider, therefore, that the export of 32 live elephants from

Zimbabwe to China in October 2019 failed to comply with CITES provisions defining “appropriate and acceptable” destinations under Resolution Conf.11.20 (Rev. CoP17), notwithstanding the amendments agreed at CoP18. By any reasonable metric, the conditions of the transfer and housing are demonstrably inhumane. As noted above, analysis of video footage from the quarantine facilities in China show the elephants each alone in small, enclosed barred cells. The cells have bare concrete floors and there are no provisions made for their comfort and well-being, nor any means of environmental enrichment.”

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