Chinese nationals have been spotted loading Zimbabwe baby elephants into crates at the Hwange national park in preparation to fly them to captivity in China.

The men are crating 27 baby elephants and 10 lions captured in the national park and they will now be shipped to Chinese zoos, possibly as soon as  tomorrow.

Zimbabwe started capturing baby elephants last year resulting in a world-wide outcry, but it now seems certain that the babies and the lions are doomed to spend their lives in cages.

Leading Zimbabwe environmentalist Johnny Rodrigues believes the entire operation is illegal.  He says that Zimbabwe National Parks staff are playing no part in the process and no veterinary documentation has been completed, “The Zimbabwe government is completely ignoring its own laws by letting these animals leave without proper procedures being followed and without proper documentation,” he says.

“Our government has let a group of Chinese foreign nationals come to our country and hijack our wildlife.  We have no idea who these people are or who they represent or if they have any skill in handling wild animals.”

Rodrigues said that the Chinese group arrived at Hwange on Thursday last week. “It seems they started training on how to get animals into cages.  They would trap and then release an elephant baby but now it seems they are crating up for departure tomorrow.”

Rodrigues said that the runway at Hwange is long enough to take large planes and there is speculation that a Chinese military cargo plane is on its way to fetch the animals.