Zimbabwe’s elephant trade with China is now a million dollar business

Leaving home.
Leaving home.
Image: Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo
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Over the last year, Zimbabwe has exported young elephants to China as it looks to reduce its own elephant population. The country has about 80,000 elephants, but says it can only cope with around half of that number. According to wildlife authorities elephant sales to China have raised $1 million so far.

Zimbabwe’s elephant sales have been criticized by animal rights groups who, last year, described the export of 24 elephants to China as “cruel”. Despite the criticism, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) certified the sale legal, subject to conditions. Edson Chidziya,  director general of the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Authority, has tried to allay fears over elephants’ chances of survival there. “We exported 24 elephants last year to China and we know that only one died. The rest are still alive.” On its part, China has promised to step up measures to stamp out illegal sale of ivory – the driving force behind elephant poaching.

Zimbabwe is hoping to expand its elephant sale beyond China, with the Middle East considered a potential market. It also says revenues earned from its elephant trade will go towards conservation efforts.

Zimbabwe continues to deal with a major poaching problem as the global trade in ivory makes its elephants a target. Last year, it reported over 8,000 poaching incidents. The threat of poaching in Africa is not limited to Zimbabwe. Tanzania has lost 60% of its elephant population in the last five years and Kenya has deployed snipers to protect its diminishing rhino population.