Harare – This is the grim concrete enclosure that’s now home for some of the latest batch of elephants shipped from Zimbabwe’s beautiful Hwange National Park to a zoo in China.
China’s Shanghai Daily has published a black and white picture of what it says are two of six “African elephants” just arrived at Hangzhou Wildlife World in Zhejiang Province.
Though the site doesn’t confirm that these elephants came from Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe’s Parks and Wildlife Management Authority this week confirmed the export in late December of 35 elephants to China. Hangzhou Wildlife World is one of three zoos named by the paper as destinations for the elephants.
The export has provoked criticism from animal lovers who say it’s unfair to separate young elephants from the rest of the herd. But Zimparks says the trade is necessary “to generate financial resources for conservation programmes”.
There will be concerns raised not only over the concrete enclosure the animals are being held in (apparently they’re currently in quarantine) but also over the diet they’re being fed. It consists of “carrots, sugar cane, apples and hay” – a far cry from the diet Zimbabwe elephants would be accustomed to in Hwange National Park, where they were captured. Elephants in Zimbabwe might occasionally eat sugar cane if they raid fields, but only in the southeast of the country.
The Shanghai Daily said: “Two of the elephants are male and the rest are female. The animals weigh about 1 ton on average. They are all about 1.6 metres tall and around three years old.
“The six elephants must spend 30 days in routine isolation for quarantine and inspection purposes before they can meet visitors in the spring,” the report said.
Wildlife At Risk International, an animal rights group, lamented the conditions the elephants were being held in. “Wild elephant calves, brutally taken from their mothers, flown halfway across the globe, this is what their new world looks like,” the group said in an online update.
Zimbabwe says it began exporting elephants to China in July 2015 and had by early last year exported about 100 sub-adult elephants, mostly aged between five and seven. Environment Minister Oppah Muchinguri says she will carry on with the trade despite opposition.