ANIMAL rights activists have vowed to continue their battle for the release of four baby elephants exported to China from Zimbabwe as the secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) investigates whether Zimbabwe's live elephant export was above board.
In November 2012, four baby elephants were taken from the Hwange National Park to Taiyuan Zoo and Tien Shan Zoo Safari in northern China.
Environmentalist group, Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF), was outraged and said the calves were too young for the long journey to China. The elephants reportedly endured a 12-hour drive from Hwange National Park to Harare International Airport and a long-haul Emirates flight to the Far East via Dubai.
In early January, it was reported that one of the baby elephants had died, sparking further protest as campaigners alleged the infant had died from the trauma of the journey.
ZCTF and other international animal rights groups voiced concerns over the conditions in which the calves were being held and called on Cites to revoke the export permits.
On January 6, a petition was drawn up and posted on the online petition website, avaaz.org.
In less than a week, more than 10 000 had signed the document which was then sent to the Cites secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland. In response to the petition and numerous other calls for action, the secretariat issued a statement last week Friday.
Cites explained that live trade between states was permissible, but the world regulatory body does not have the power to withdraw export permits issued to member states.
"Both Zimbabwe and China are longstanding parties to Cites," the group said in a statement. "All permits and certificates for trade under Cites are issued and accepted by the designated national Cites authorities of the 177 state parties (countries) to Cites. The Cites secretariat does not issue any Cites permits or certificates, and has no authority to directly intervene in Cites trade transactions."
Prior to the Cites' statement, campaigners for animal rights said the export of this species of African elephant was endangered, but the international body in its statement said at the present moment the Loxodonta africana (African elephant) of Zimbabwe was not threatened with extinction.
Cites further said it was liaising with wildlife authorities in both China and Zimbabwe to determine if the exportation was done procedurally.
Zimbabwe plans to export another 10 elephants later this month, but animal activists have vowed to continue petitioning Cites to stop further live animal exports between the two countries.