While the poaching crisis that is destroying elephant populations and societies across Africa dominates the news, international conservation efforts, and political discussions, an insidious form of elephant trade persists. Born Free has learned, with shock, that some two dozen elephant calves, captured in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park, have now been unceremoniously shipped to China.
These young elephants, ripped from their family herds, who once thrived in the wild where they belonged, are destined for a shortened life in captivity. They will be confined on unnatural substrates, prevented from engaging in the daily behavior that makes them elephants - walking for miles, rubbing the bark off countless trees, foraging for natural vegetation, playing with their friends, and living, and ultimately dying, in the wild with their families.
While calls persist for more and more to be done to stop the international trade in elephant ivory - as it should be - this horrific trade in live animals is largely ignored. More than a decade ago, US animal groups fought unsuccessfully to stop the import of elephants from Swaziland to two zoos in the US, having found an alternative natural home in southern Africa instead. But, it seems that, to some, elephants represent nothing more than a commercial product to be bought and sold, shipped and confined, wherever the opportunity surfaces.