Zimbabwean wildlife activists are in a race against time to stop the government from selling 35 baby elephants to China and Pakistan after it emerged that the state was planning to secretly trade the young jumbos.
Lenin Chisaira, Director of Advocacy4Earth, an environmental lobby group which is suing the government over the sale, alleging that government has been trying, since last year, to nicodemusly sell the baby elephants to China but were delayed by a High Court application which they filed in May this year.
"The ongoing case has been that the state wants to sell the elephants through the backdoor and we have reliable information that they can fly out tomorrow and Thursday.
"The elephants are currently detained in Hwange but the government has made sure no one, including us environmentalists and the media from at least getting the details of the sale," he said.
The activists claimed that if the government goes ahead with the sale, it will not only be in contempt of court but also in violation of the country's and international animal welfare regulations.
"During the recently held CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna) meeting, it was resolved that elephants from Africa should no longer be sold outside the continent. Although the agreement is not yet binding, Zimbabwe is trying to run ahead of time before the law is affected. They need to think of the future than now," he stated.
However, an official from the Zimbabwe Parks and Wild Life Management Authority, Tinashe Farawo poured cold water on the issue saying it was a mere social media talk as the government does not capture baby elephants for sale but for rehabilitation.
"They have approached the courts but the most important thing you need to know is we don't sell them. Of course, we capture baby elephants but in the event that we do, it means they are being treated for an ailment or something like that.
"Normally, it's for management purposes, let's say it's an orphan and the vet doctors have noticed something and they need to attend to it.
"But some of these selling stories are just fiction, it's something we hear on social media. There are people who are making money in the name of wildlife. However, we cannot discuss further a matter which is before the courts," Farawo said.
He stated that there is a case of misplaced priorities from the activists as he claimed attention should be on the human-wild life conflict.
"People are quiet about lives which are being lost as a result of wildlife, we have a serious problem of overpopulation of animals. There is no water, food and these animals end up invading communities in search of those resources," he noted.