Animal rights activists in Zimbabwe are working overtime to stop the imminent translocation of 37 elephants from Hwange National Park reportedly destined for China and Pakistan.
The activists claim 35 of the jumbos are heading to China while two are going to Pakistan.
These elephants were captured and kept in bomas at Hwange with the wildlife activist claiming the Zimbabwean authorities are using an invalid permit to sell the animals.
Members of the Zimbabwe Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ZNSPCA) and an environmental lobby group – Advocates4Earth, formerly known as People and Earth Solidarity Law Network, were recently denied access to Hwange National Park by the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority (ZimParks).
In an interview with CITE, a lawyer with Advocates4Earth, Linda Masaudze, who was on the ground confirmed they were having a hard time gaining access to the park.
She said their concern over the elephants was their movement to China was a violation of the country’s laws.
“The moving of these elephants is in violation of our national laws. The constitution is being violated and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, which are some key national laws that are violated as they are set to leave to China,” Masuadze noted.
“What we are really concerned about but most importantly right now is the issue of a permit. The permit they have is in violation of national laws and if a CITES permit is in violation of national laws then that permit is in invalid, so they are using an invalid permit at the end of the day.”
The environmentalist said another concern was the manner in which these elephants are captured, as it bordered on cruelty.
“We are not happy with way these animals are captured and the way they have been staying in bomas for months now. We all know elephants are social beings but when you look at their stay in bomas the treatment (is not good). When you see video footage of the handlers kicking elephants and all that, the method of capture is just cruel, inhumane, degrading. We are against such,” she highlighted.
Masaudze added that accountability was another factor that was shrouded in secrecy.
“Thirdly, it goes back to the issue of accountability, there is no accountability from the side of the authorities which are sending these elephants. The amount of what one elephant costs is disputed and we don’t have an actual figure.
“We don’t have an actual figure of how the communities are going to benefit from these exports and it is not clear who is going to benefit what or when or how, so the issue of transparency comes back again,” the lawyer said.
It is believed that these elephants were part of a sale made last year but was stopped by a high court application.
In May last year, Advocates4Earth filed papers at the Harare High Court saying the government had refused to release information that would promote transparency on the trade.
The court case, which is yet to kick off, also sought to stop the shipping of the 37 elephants and the activists argued that the government “wantonly spurned any efforts to release the information into the public domain and to avail same to applicant.”
Contacted for comment, ZimParks spokesperson, Tinashe Farawo, said there were far more worse problems concerning the habitat of the elephants that there were dealing with.
“We have no food for the animals, no water or security. We have to fight poaching, we have no water as there is severe drought and the biggest threat to the elephants is the loss of habitat,” he noted.