African Elephants in Chinese Zoos

16. October 2021

During the international conference of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) in 2019, trade in wild caught live elephants was limited to special cases and appropriate venues licensed by CITES.

This agreement represents a compromise reached between the 197 CITES member states, but, because it is rather vague, was immediately exploited by Zimbabwe, moving 32 baby elephants to China in October of 2019. Before the shipping of the elephants, the secretary of CITES described the likely Chinese destinations as perfectly adapted to the well-being of the elephants, based on descriptions  by the Zimbabwean government authorities.

Even though Zimbabwe shipped the 32 baby y elephants before the 2019 ruling became effective, the special conditions for such shipments were well established by the ship date. The new 2019 rule is based on the requirement that both, the exporting and importing countries need to make sure that the trade results in conservational benefits for the elephants. However, conservation benefits to African elephants in Chinese captive facilities does not meet this condition by any stretch of the imagination.

Juvenile African elephants in jail far from home range

Having allowed this trade, results in serious, life-long suffering for the young elephants and is detrimental to any conservation effort. The conditions established by CITES were meant to limit life elephant trades between African reserves and national parks or sanctuaries. But as can be seen by Zimbabwe’s circumventing the CITES agreement, only a complete ban on trading live elephants can prevent this kind of abuse. And now, the Namibian government with CITES approval is planning to sell 54 elephants, possibly to China, in clear violation of the 2019 CITES rules for such trades.@