Zimbabwe Elephants Trade in the Name of Conservation
Zimbabwe wildlife officials have confirmed a December 23rd sale of 35 elephants to China in order to fund conservation efforts. The move comes in response to regional elephant overpopulation, as well as economic collapse that has left the government of Zimbabwe few options to help its constituents (1). Government officials attribute some of the financial struggle to recent regulations that prevent the sale of the country’s ivory stockpile. The country does not have a conservation budget but had crafted a previously self-sustaining conservation department using funds from these and similar sales (1).
The move by Zimbabwe faces criticism from animal welfare activists on a number of fronts (1, 2). Johnny Rodrigues, the founder of the Zimbabwe Conservation Taskforce, has specifically questioned why elephants sale was “done clandestinely and then announced two weeks later” (1). Rodrigues is referring to the fact that the sale was completed on December 23rd, 2016, but not announced until earlier this week, on January 5th. Animal advocates fear that covert operations hint at potential corruption. This is exacerbated by the lack of transparency in terms of fund allocation post-elephant sale (2). Additionally, opponents of the sale cite poor living conditions and the resulting life of confinement for the elephants, in addition to the potential moral contentiousness of removing elephants from their natural home (2).
Zimbabwe has claimed that the sale has properly followed international guidelines in this and past animal sales. Only time will tell whether the ramifications in terms of animal rights will lead to the downstream economic benefits.
The Associated Press. "Seeking Cash, Zimbabwe Sells 35 Elephants to China." The New York Times. January 5, 17. Accessed January 5, 17. http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2017/01/05/world/africa/ap-af-zimbabwe-elephants-to-china.html?_r=0.
Murray, Jess. "Zimbabwe Quietly Sells Young Elephants to China." Truth Theory: Keep Your Mind Open. December 30, 2016. Accessed January 5, 2017. https://truththeory.com/2016/12/30/zimbabwe-quietly-sells-young-elephants-china/.