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Kidnapped Baby Elephants Complete Harrowing Journey To Their Cruel Fate

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After being taken from their mothers and caged, at least 20 baby elephants were drugged and flown from Zimbabwe to China inextremely cruel traveling conditions, sources told The Guardian.

The babies, between the ages of 2 and 5 years old, were captured at Hwange National Park at a highly vulnerable time in their lives. Transporting elephants by air means they have to be heavily tranquilized so they don't move during the flight, according to Richard Ruggiero, Africa branch chief with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who spoke to National Geographic.

But the horrendous plight of transport is probably not the worst of it for the elephants, who are reportedly destined for Chinese zoos.

"For elephants, being held captive for decades in a circus or in the majority of the world's zoos is gruesome, a fate worse than death," Joyce Poole, cofounder of Kenya-based ElephantVoices, told National Geographic late last year, when the plan to export the elephants first came to light.

Tragically, the fate of these elephants will likely be similar to that of eight baby elephants exported from Zimbabwe to China in 2012 and sold to the Taiyuan Zoo. Most have already died, and survival is full of pain. One elephant suffering from a swollen abdomen and a very bad skin rash is kept isolated behind bars, constantly rubbing his body against the walls of his concrete enclosure.

Some report that this latest shipment of elephants is likely bound for Chimelong Safari Park, where they will be forced to perform tricks to amuse tourists.

The captured elephants are reportedly shown in undercover footage in their enclosure before transport: