Zimbabwe has captured dozens of baby elephants from the wild over the past year, ripping them away from their mothers and families and selling them to China for display in zoos and other attractions. Recent photos from National Geographic show just how terrible their new lives are.
Unfortunately, Zimbabwe's controversial elephant export isn't new - another group of elephants was sold to China in 2012. The babies, who are usually just a few years old when they're taken, are drugged during the journey. Once they arrive, they face bleak, lonely lives in empty cells, cut off from relatives and rarely receiving the care they need.
The new photos, which were taken secretly at a Chinese quarantine facility, show that the most recent "shipment" of babies was no exception.
Joyce Poole, co-founder of Kenya-based advocacy group Elephant Voices, told National Geographic that the photos show the latest babies with a number of injuries.
Poole says the elephants - many as young as four - have protruding cheekbones, lackluster skin, a mottled complexion - which signifies poor condition - and abrasions.
She speculates that the wounds may have been inflicted by people, or by infighting among the elephants, or during their journey from Zimbabwe to China. Or indeed by a combination of all three.
Many of the injuries "are consistent with bullhook wounds," Poole says, which are sometimes used in transporting and disciplining elephants. (Bullhooks are poker-like, metal instruments traditionally used to "train" elephants.)