WAZA Statement

Date: 2018/01/23

 

on Wild-Capture of Elephants in Zimbabwe

 

WAZA Statement on Wild-Capture of Elephants in Zimbabwe


The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) welcomes the decision by the president of Zimbabwe to ban future sales of live elephants to foreign zoos, following the recent transfer of 34 wild-caught elephants to institutions in China that did not appear to meet the standards of animal welfare or conservation as agreed by the global captive-care community.

 

President Emmerson Mnangagwa also banned trade in other endangered species such as rhinoceroses, pangolins, and lions that are listed as Appendix I by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Media reports and images shared around the globe in recent weeks showed a crude capture of elephant calves from the Hwange National Park that does not conform to international guidelines, and fails to take into account the well-being of the animals themselves. Elephants estimated to be five years of age and younger were sedated by sharpshooters in helicopters, then taken away by trucks while helicopters scattered the remaining members of the herd.

 

Mnangagwa's decision reversed the policies of his predecessor, Robert Mugabe, who actively sought overseas markets for Zimbabwe's wildlife. The Government of Zimbabwe previously indicated that such sales were necessary to fund conservation activities in the country, but a lack of transparency made it difficult to track how the funds were spent.

 

Equally troubling is the lack of due diligence regarding the zoos in China that received the elephants and whether they meet international standards required as appropriate and acceptable destinations.

 

WAZA's Code of Ethics calls on all members to "ensure that the source of animals is confined to those born in human care and this will be best achieved by direct zoo to zoo conduct." In the event that the capture of animals from the wild is necessary, members "must be confident that such acquisitions will not have a deleterious effect upon the wild population."

 

None of the Chinese zoos that received the elephants are members of WAZA.

Elephants are highly intelligent animals with complex social structures, and require expert care and knowledge to ensure that their social, physical and psychological needs are properly met. WAZA guidelines are clear that all wild-caught animals should come from reputable sources, do not impact on wild populations or reinforce commercial production of wild animals, and avoid the negative welfare consequences of indiscriminate capture.

 

WAZA expressed similar concerns regarding a capture and sale of elephants from Zimbabwe to Chinese zoos in 2015, and WAZA calls upon the Chinese zoos that have obtained elephants to work with established and accredited zoo breeding programmes to ensure that these wild captures are not a conservation risk and that the welfare of the elephants is of the utmost importance.

 

WAZA is the global alliance of regional associations, national federations, private companies, zoos and aquariums comprised of nearly 400 members in over 50 countries. For more information, please visit www.waza.org or contact communication@waza.org.

 

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