Africa is losing the battle to save its wildlife. Iconic African animals including elephants and rhinos are under attack from highly organized criminal networks that are feeding an insatiable demand for ivory and rhino horn in Vietnam, and other Asian countries.
The scale of the problem
Elephants are killed for their tusks which are carved into trinkets, and rhinos for their horns which are used in phony potions claimed to ‘cure’ everything from fevers to hangovers. According to the United Nations, 100 elephants are killed every day in Africa by poachers.
There are only some 5,500 black rhino left and about 18,000 white rhino. They are being killed at the rate of 30 a day in South Africa alone. Network for Animals has also cared for the victims of the poaching epidemic, supplying high protein feed to rear eight rhino babies whose mothers were slaughtered for their horns.
How Network for Animals is working to stop this
One of our major focuses is to protect elephants in southern Africa. Network for Animals has supplied funding for ranger patrols, food and kennelling for canine anti-poaching units in the Kruger National Park and the Addo National Park. We provide elephant tracking collars for Addo elephants and have expanded elephant range in the Eastern Cape. We are now in the middle of a major project to repopulate Addo with tusked elephants.
In 2018, our supporters financed the relocation of a 27-strong elephant family to an area of Addo where they were hunted to extinction 150 years ago. The elephant family lived in the main area of the park but could not move across the road and railway line which cuts through the park. NFA, working with South African National Parks, selected a suitable family, brought in an expert game-capture team, and moved them to an idyllic wilderness.
The area they now live in is perfectly suited for elephants, with plenty of water and grazing, and lots of land for them to breed in. A baby has been born, the first in the area for 150 years.
Because all the elephants with big tusks in the Addo area were hunted out in the last century, Addo’s elephants are now born with either very small tusks, or none at all. Tusks play a very important role for elephants; they are used to protect the sensitive trunk, for foraging and digging, and for attracting females. We have pledged to help Addo’s elephants get tusks back. In 2019, we relocated Tembe, a big tusker from the north of South Africa to Addo in the hope that he would breed with tuskless females and their offspring would have tusks. We are waiting impatiently for the first birth.
Tembe in all his glory.
Zimbabwe’s shame – exporting baby elephants to Chinese zoos
In 2015, we learned that the Zimbabwe government illegally exported 37 baby wild elephants to Chinese zoos, using forged permits to do so, we flew to Beijing to take the matter up with the authorities. They denied all knowledge of the babies, even when we produced video footage of them being held in small cages in a quarantine center. No one knows what happened to those babies, but the chances are they are suffering somewhere in one of China’s notoriously-badly-run zoos.
Since then we worked to have the international baby elephant trade banned and in 2019, the practice was made illegal by CITES, the international organization charged by nations to regulate the trade and use of wildlife. The Zimbabwe government ignored the new law and exported two babies to Pakistan. We are keeping close tabs on the situation.
The Zimbabwe babies face terrible cruelty as they are trained to perform circus tricks. Elephant behavioral experts say that training elephants to perform tricks always involves cruelty. Usually, the babies are chained and beaten until they respond to a command.
Chimelong Zoo, the combined zoo and circus responsible for the performing Asian Elephants pictured on this page, and owners of the Zimbabwe elephants, refuse to even talk about what they are doing to the babies.
Because all the elephants with big tusks in the Addo area were hunted out in the last century, Addo’s elephants are now born with either very small tusks, or none at all. Tusks play a very important role for elephants; they are used to protect the sensitive trunk, for foraging and digging, and for attracting females. We have pledged to help Addo’s elephants get tusks back. We are moving big tuskers who live in areas where they might be poached by ivory hunters, to Addo where they will breed with tuskless elephants, and reintroduce the tusk gene into the Addo herds.
Our first relocation took place in late 2019.