Zimbabwe plans to sell elephants and lions to China to fund conservation

Conservationists say 100 elephants sold in July were sentenced to life of inhumane treatment and criticise plans to sell more wildlife

Zimbabwe plans to sell more elephants and lions to China as part of a scheme to raise funds for conservation, its environment minister has said.

Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri told the state-run Herald newspaper she was happy with the conditions in which 100 elephants sold in July were being kept, and said the country intended to increase the rate and range of wildlife exports.

“The Chinese have inquired about more elephants, baboons, hyenas, lions, among others, and we will sell them more without hesitation. We are not going to apologise to anyone,” she said, after touring the Chimelong safari park in Guangzhou, where many of the elephants sold in July now live.

Conservationists have sharply criticised the sales, with the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF) claiming dozens of baby elephants had been “sentenced to a life of inhumane treatment”.

The government has denied selling only young elephants, with the Herald reporting that the age of those sent to China was between five and seven years old.

Muchinguri said the sale of the elephants was necessary to raise funds to take care of national parks in Zimbabwe, which have been ravaged by drought and systematic poaching.

In one incident in October, poachers poisoned 22 elephants in the Hwange national park and sawed off their tusks. Poaching rings supply markets in Asia, primarily China and Vietnam, where ivory and rhino horn is thought to have medicinal properties.

Muchinguri said the Zimbabwean government was seeking help from Chinese authorities to tackle poaching and would request the supply of drones to monitor parks.

“At the moment the world faces two problems, poaching and terrorism. We must, therefore, raise resources for the upkeep of the elephants by selling them. Poachers are getting sophisticated and we should invest in sophisticated anti-poaching systems.”

The minister dismissed criticism about the country’s approach. “We are going to increase the number of elephants and other species we are exporting to China because they have done a good job in taking care of those they have already bought from us,” she said.

“We will not apologise to anyone. Not even once because they are our elephants and our people live with a huge population of elephants and bear the trouble of interacting with them.”

Zimbabwe’s elephant population is estimated at 84,000. The elephants sent to China in July were sold for about £26,000 each. Zimbabwe has been grappling with a financial crisis for more than a decade, with hyperinflation sending tens of thousands of Zimbabweans abroad in search of better jobs.

Contributor

Murithi Mutiga in Nairobi

The GuardianTramp

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