There has been talk of Zimbabwe taking up to 80 baby elephants from their families in the wild to sell to foreign buyers, including China for some time.
Details of the transfer have been hard to come by. How many elephants? Which country (or countries) are they going to?
African elephants are protected by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), which prohibits or restricts the international trade of elephants and their derivatives.
Speculation about the transfer has drawn so much worldwide condemnation that the CITES Secretariat issued a public statement. The statement clarifies that the Secretariat does not make the ultimate decision. And that it is up to the importing country to determine whether the live elephants are going into "appropriate and acceptable destinations".
By "appropriate and acceptable," CITES document clarifies:
"That the destination for live animals should be those that ensure that the animals are humanely treated."
China has been mentioned as one of the possible destinations for the shipments of live baby elephants.
This is not surprising.
Elephants have become big attractions for tourists in China. Chinese zoos are all clamoring to have their own elephants.
In November 2012, two Chinese zoos in the country's north and northwest bought four elephant calves from Zimbabwe. Unable to withstand the trauma of being kidnapped from their families and going into a bitterly cold environment, three of the baby elephants soon died.
A zoo is no place for an elephant. Even the most modern zoo, exercising the industry's best practices, cannot meet the physical and psychological needs of these highly intelligent and social animals.