In the face of an international outcry, the Zimbabwe government yesterday sent 24 baby elephants to Chinese zoos, where they will spend the rest of their lives in cages.

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 started again as soon as the 24 babies were trucked away.

The transport of wild animals is strictly regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), but Zimbabwe conservationist Johnny Rodrigues says the Zimbabwe government ignored CITES rules on veterinary care.

Network for Animals has established that the elephants spent at least three days locked in cages that permitted only the bare minimum of movement.

The elephants were loaded into crates and on to trucks in Hwange national Park on Saturday July 1. They were trucked to Harare International Airport where they were loaded on to an aircaft at 17:00 on Sunday July 2. They were then flown to Dubai and on to Shanghai where they landed at 22:00 on Monday July 6.

IMG-20150603-WA0002 copyAbove the crates are pictured which are believed to have contained the twenty four elephants for six days, undoubtedly risking their lives and causing immense suffering. It is expected that some of the elephants will have died on the journey.

David Barritt, NFA’s African director, says the ramifications of Zimbabwe’s actions go far beyond the fate of this group of elephants.

“Here is a country that has flouted the rules on trade and subjected animals to enormous cruelty while the world stood helplessly by while it happened. It is certain that we need stronger regulations and the collective will to punish those who, like Zimbabwe, break international  agreements. It’s going to happen again and again until the world decides to take united action to stop it.”

Mr Barritt said that it was important that animal lovers continue to put pressure on elected officials to pay attention to the cruelty that is taking place, and the consequences for allowing countries to ignore international agreements.