Experts who looked at the photos told National Geographic that the condition of the elephants was verging on abandonment.
Scott Blais, CEO of the Global Sanctuary for Elephants, a Tennessee-based organization that aims to create a network of refuges for captive elephants, also analyzed the photos.
Blais said it appears that the elephants' wounds aren't being treated. He noted that urine and fecal stains are present on every elephant. "Due to their small confines," Blais said, "it's impossible for them to escape their own waste at night."
They're currently being held at a quarantine facility in China's Guangzhou Province before being sent to a nearby safari park. Zimbabwe has been roundly criticized for its decision to kidnap the wild elephants and ship them off, particularly in light of the species' rapidly dwindling numbers.
And it's clear that if the loss of the elephants is a tragedy to the population and their families, it's an even bigger disaster for the young elephants themselves.
Joyce Poole, co-founder of Kenya-based advocacy group Elephant Voices, told National Geographic that the injuries were the result of too little space and a lack of adult elephants - or qualified keepers - to manage the youngsters.
"[It's] morally reprehensible," she said.
For more photos, visit National Geographic.