Wildlife & Biodiversity

CITES CoP 2019: No more trade in African elephants

Parties vote to restrict trade from Zimbabwe and Botswana. They can no longer be shipped to zoos and circuses worldwide

 
By DTE Staff
Last Updated: Wednesday 28 August 2019
Delegates at the CITES meet in Geneva on August 27 voted to restrict trade in live elephants from southern Africa. Photo: Getty Images

Elephants from the wild will no longer be shipped to zoos and circuses around the globe, delegates at the 18th Conference of Parties (CoP) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) decided on August 27, 2019.

Eighty-seven CITES parties decided to restrict trade in elephants from Zimbabwe and Botswana to in situ conservation programmes or secure areas in the wild within the species’ natural and historical range in Africa, with limited exceptions.

This would end the export of elephants from these countries to captive facilities outside of Africa, barring exceptional circumstances or emergency situations.

“This is a remarkable victory,” said Johanna Hamburger, wildlife attorney for the Animal Welfare Institute, a non-profit in Washington, D.C.

“This action will save an untold number of baby elephants from the horrific experience of being torn from their mothers, beaten during capture and conscripted into a lifetime of captivity. Now, these animals can continue to roam the African wilderness with their families — where they belong,” she added.

Since 2012, Zimbabwe has captured and exported 108 wild African elephants to zoos. From a helicopter, captors shoot tranquiliser darts at the young elephants, and then maneuver the chopper to drive away the rest of the herd.

Some elephants die while waiting to be shipped, in transit, or upon arrival at their destination. Elephants who do survive the long journey have been observed living in dark, barren cells in holding facilities and zoos.

Earlier this year, Down To Earth had reported that Zimbabwe made $2.7 million by selling 97 live elephants to China and the United Arab Emirates between 2012 and 2018. A total of 93 elephants were exported to China and four were exported to Dubai. The elephants were airlifted to Shanghai Wildlife Park, Jiangmeu-Hesham, Chimelong and Umurgi in China and to Dubai Safari Park.

The CITES CoP 18 began on August 17 in Geneva and will conclude on August 28.

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