The Zimbabwe government illegally exported 24 baby elephants and ten lions to the Chimelong Safari Park in Guangzhou on Saturday July 4, 2015.

Chimelong Safari Park has long been the centre of controversy, hosting a TV show where animals were given pedicures and taken on shopping trips as well as housing the “largest circus in the world”. Inspections by the respected organisation, Animals Asia, found that many of the animals are housed in poor conditions.

The exported babies are between two and five years old and would normally still be dependent on their mothers for milk.

Chimelong is apparently seeking to buy 200 elephants from Zimbabwe and Network for Animals is seeking to work with Chinese authorities to prevent this.

“Zimbabwe is breaking international agreements and its own laws in the export of these elephants” said David Barritt NFA’s African director.

The transport of wild animals is strictly regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and it is certain that Zimbabwe broke these rules and ignored Zimbabwe’s own animal protection laws.

The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority ignored a request from the Zimbabwe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, ZNSPCA, to inspect the animals.

Fake export licences from the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority have been used to export Zimbabwe’s wildlife to Asian markets since November 2014.

The elephants are part of a larger group that the Zimbabwe authorities started capturing late last year. Sources have told Network for Animals that Zimbabwe intends to capture and sell more baby elephants and that the process is about to begin again.