Elephants, lions and other animals are being captured in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park to be sold to buyers in China, according to animal rights activists.
The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, which was set up in 2001 to help the country’s national parks deal with poachers, says it has received “disturbing reports” of the thefts witnessed by visitors and tourists. The animals are set for export to China, including an order of 30 lions, the group says.
The task force says it has counted 34 elephants aged 2- to 5-years-old, seven lions and about 10 sable being held at Mtshibi Capture Unit not far from the park’s main camp.
“Our investigators have seen the animals and tried to take photos but were not allowed,” the task force said in a statement. “The security there is very tight. They were told that the animals will be sent by container trucks to Maputo in Mozambique where they will be transferred to a livestock sea freighter and sent on to China.”
Now, a petition has been launched asking government officials, including controversial president Robert Mugabe, to step in and stop the export of animals to China. It aims for 1 million signatures, but so far sits at around 8,000.
“Why is Zimbabwe stealing from the future generation’s natural resources?” the petition and the task force asks. “The baby elephants quite likely won’t survive the trip and the only crime they have committed is being born in Zimbabwe. They are now being sentenced to a life of inhuman treatment. This is very traumatic, not only for the baby elephants but also for their families. Elephants don’t forget and this is very dangerous for future visitors to Hwange.”
Last year, poachers in Hwange National Park started poisoning water holes with cyanide in order to kill elephants for their tusks. Reports counted more than 300 elephants being killed this way.
The Minister of Environment Water and Climate Hon Saviour Kasukuwere recently condemned cyanide poisoning in Zambezi National Park, pledging to bring the perpetrators to justice.
“Minister Kasukuwere warned poachers that the long arm of the law will catch up with them and that stiffer penalties should be passed in all cases involving wildlife crime countrywide,” the government said in a statement.