In January last year, we heard that Rowan Martin and Hank Jenkins were tasked with going around Zimbabwe to locate some elephants to be exported to China. They were apparently paid quite well for this and they finally decided on Hwange National Park.
In August last year, tourists in Hwange National Park started complaining about helicopters flying overhead, frightening the elephant herds. When the herds bolted, the babies left behind were captured and put into a boma in Umtshibi which is about 15 km from Main Camp in Hwange National Park. These babies were between 2 and 5 years old, still dependent on their mothers for milk. Dr Joyce Poole verified the ages of these elephants.
In all, 36 elephants were captured, 3 of which died. One of the dead elephants was eaten by the locals. Thereafter, 9 escaped and some were recaptured leaving 27 in the boma. 10 lions were also captured and put into a boma in the same area.
We have been trying to stop the export of these elephants with the support of numerous organisations worldwide. VAUZ and the SPCA (Bulawayo and Mutare) tried to get into the area to inspect the welfare of the elephants but they were not allowed to go in. The whole place was in lockdown.
In April this year, cages, hydraulic equipment and forklifts arrived at the bomas. The cages were painted with red oxide.
In June this year, a contingent of Chinese people arrived at the capture unit and the Zimbabweans were thrown out. Li Song was apparently there as well. We heard that Li Song supplied boots to the army, air force and prisons and the Zimbabwe government owed her 3,6 million dollars which they could not pay. They apparently did a barter deal with her, giving her a piece of land in Mana Pools upon which she illegally chopped down trees and built a 26 roomed lodge. In addition, we believe she was also given the elephants. 200 have been ordered in all. She is supposed to sell them to Chimelong in China and the money is obviously not coming back to Zimbabwe. It will pay off the debt that is owed to her. 24 elephants were loaded and we do not know what has happened to the 3 that were left behind.
On the 4th July this year, the elephants were loaded into the cages. This was after several “rehearsals” were done to ensure the loading went smoothly. 2 interlink trucks beonging to Western Transport in Bulawayo arrived to collect the cages. The owner of Western Transport claims he doesn’t know anything about his trucks picking up the elephants. They spent most of the day loading and left Hwange at around 6:30pm. We found it interesting that the export took place on the 4th July which is the American Independence Day. They drove through the night to Harare International Airport, with armed and police escorts and arrived in Harare at about 8:15 the following morning.
There was very tight security around the airport. The plane the cages were loaded onto was a Chinese jumbo jet belonging to Unitop B747-200, registration number B2462. The flight number was UW9968, direct to Guangzhou in China. The plane left at between 18:00 and 19:00 and we believe the pilot was an ex Zimbabwean.
China doesn’t have a good track record for treating animals properly and these elephants are going to be subjected to a life of cruelty and inhumane treatment.
We have copies of 2 permits that were apparently issued for the export of 4 elephants at the end of last year and 8 elephants and 2 crocodiles in January this year. The permits look fraudulent so we are trying to find out if those animals did in fact go to China.
In December last year, 7 elephants were exported to the United Arab Emirates. These animals were tamed but they are still wild animals and therefore still dangerous. You can’t domesticate an elephant. You can tame them but you can’t domesticate them.LION KILLED IN HWANGE
A beautiful famous lion in Hwange National Park has been shot. His name was Cecil and everybody wanted photos of him. A big game hunter shot him last week. He could have earned a lot of money by being alive and having photos taken.THANK YOU
The baby elephants that were exported are being sold for $40 000 each, which is a one off. If these animals are allowed to live in their natural habitat, they can earn up to a million dollars in tourism in their lifetime. In their natural habitat, they normally live to between 68 and 72 years but elephants in captivity normally only live to about 35.We would like to thank all the thousands of people who helped us to try and stop this export - all the NGOs, film stars and honorary members of the ZCTF who spent endless sleepless nights over the past 10 months. Even though we failed, we can try and stop the next export from taking place.