The Zimbabwe Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ZNSPCA) is unhappy over lack of transparency over the translocation of young elephants by the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority (ZimParks).
It is believed around 30 elephants or more were moved from Hwange to Victoria Falls Airport last week Thursday and reportedly loaded onboard a Saudia Cargo B777 Freighter Registration HZ-AK71 operating as flight SV3049 to an unknown destination.
The exact figure of elephants that were moved is unknown to ZNSPCA but some wildlife activists believe these jumbos have been sold to a Chinese safari park.
ZNSPCA has since laid a criminal charge against a ZimParks official and approached the High Court for urgent relief that will grant its inspectors access to elephants that were reportedly left behind.
Last week, ZNSPCA inspectors made repeated attempts at gaining access to the Zimparks Game Capture Unit located at Umtsibi in Hwange National Park but were unsuccessful.
“ZNSPCA Inspectors are Government appointed in terms of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (19:09) and their obstruction is a jail-able offence. (But) there were specific instructions to deny entry to our Inspectors. These orders we were told had been handed down from senior ZimParks officials,” said the animal organisation in a statement.
ZNSPCA said it was saddened by the translocation of young elephants to an undetermined destination by ZimParks and the conduct of the officials.
“ZNSPCA has laid a criminal charge against the ZimParks’ Cluster Manager for Hwange, Samson Chibaya and has sought urgent relief before The High Court of Zimbabwe. We understand a high degree of secrecy and lack of transparency surrounded this particular shipment of young elephants.
“Our sources advise us that some of these elephants were loaded into crates and driven from Umtsibi to Victoria Falls Airport on Thursday October 24, during the early hours of the morning,” said the animals’ organisation.
The animal rights group claims that these young elephants were loaded under extreme temperature conditions with no apparent concerns given as to their welfare.
“We question the sanctioning of such an operation given the heatwave Zimbabwe is currently experiencing (official meteorological warnings having been issued),” ZNSPCA said.
“Given the lack of transparency, clandestine nature of this shipment and failure by ZimParks to uphold the rule of law, we once again appeal to all responsible authorities to conduct a full scale investigation into this matter including all financial arrangements and transactions.”
ZNSPCA said all wildlife remain the property and heritage of the people of Zimbabwe and as such should not be exploited nor subject to cruel and inhumane conditions.
At the moment, ZNSPCA are attempting to ascertain the exact condition of those animals that were offloaded and those that remain confined in Umtsibi or elsewhere in transit.
In May, Advocates4Earth, formerly known as The People and Earth Solidarity Law Network, filed a lawsuit demanding the government release details of the sale of the elephants.
The case is yet to be heard and the environmental lobby group warned ZimParks that any attempt to export the elephants before the case was resolved would amount to contempt of court.