In October 2014, tens of young elephants were taken from their family groups in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, where they were held in a capture unit for eight months until July 2015. That’s when 24 were flown to the Qingyuan quarantine facility in Guangdong Province before being transferred to Chimelong Safari Park, also in Guangdong.
Oppah Muchinguri, Zimbabwe’s minister of environment, water and climate, said that more of the country’s wildlife will be captured and sent to China to give them a better and safer environment, according to the China Daily. Muchinguri spoke during a visit to the Qingyuan animals and plants preservation center, Guangdong, on New Year’s Eve.
“We are happy that young African animals have been well accommodated here in China,” she said. “We are willing to export more in the years to come as it would help in the preservation of wild animals.”
In September 2015, National Geographic reported that the elephants in China were being mistreated and were slipping into poor health.
Previously, in 2012, Zimbabwe exported eight elephants to China, according to a database produced by the Convention on International Trade in Wild Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES), the international body that sets wildlife trade policy. Only four survived the journey. Another three died shortly after arriving in China, leaving only one surviving elephant.
Export of elephants is sanctioned under CITES, as long as trade in individual animals or plants doesn’t threaten the long-term survival of the species.
Elephants Die Sooner in Zoos
A 2012 Seattle Times report found that elephant births in U.S. zoos have failed to offset deaths, which will lead to the demographic extinction of the country’s zoo elephants in the next 50 years. Half the elephants documented in the study were dead by age 23, about a third of their expected life span in the wild of 50 to 60.
The report noted that the infant mortality rate for elephants in zoos is 40 percent—nearly triple the natural rate in the wild in Asia and Africa. Most had died from injury or disease associated with their captive conditions: foot and joint disease, reproductive disorders, infertility, aberrant behaviors such as infanticide.