There is concern for the fate of at least two elephants still being held in Zimbabwe for future export, to fulfil an order placed by China.
The animals are being held in Victoria Falls, according to the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF). They are part of an order that was only part filled with the export of four baby elephants to zoos in China late last year. One of those elephants has since died.
Another five elephants, four of which were destined for China, were this weekend transferred to the Umfurudzi National Park after they were released from bomas they were being held in, at Hwange National Park. The animals had been captured and removed from their family herds ahead of being exported. But the National Parks authorities, following the intervention of the Zimbabwe NSPCA, decided the group would be rehabilitated at Umfurudzi because they "had grown too big" and were too used to the bomas.
The animals now face a three month rehabilitation period.
ZCTF chairman Johnny Rodrigues, told SW Radio Africa on Monday that this victory is bittersweet, because it doesn't change the fact that orders for animals are still being placed and fulfilled. He said that there are still animals being held, including the two elephants in Victoria Falls. He said that orders for another 48 elephants have already been placed by international countries, and the cash strapped government would be fulfilling these demands.
"I praise the people that were involved in having the animals released, but I believe there is hidden agenda. There are still animals being held," Rodrigues said.
He said the government is already committed to fulfilling China's order, because they have been paid.
"I admire all the people that did so much to save them (the five released elephants), but there are another 48 elephants on order to be exported," Rodrigues warned.
He added: "It is frightening when we exploit something that is our heritage and export them to another country. We are going to get a High Court order to prevent authorities from doing what they are doing."