For anyone that knows me, you’ll know I’m elephant mad. For anyone that doesn’t, I’m elephant mad! Now we’re all on the same page, let’s begin…
Right, I don’t know if you heard, because often this sort of news goes completely untouched by some of the big ‘news’ reporters (basically because it’s way more exciting to know that David Beckham was at Wimbledon today, obviously!), but on Monday, 24 young elephants were sold by Zimbabwe to a Chinese safari park.
These were wild born elephants, taken from there mothers in the African bush, ‘tamed’ in captivity for 6 months, then sold to China for £25,000 each. The proposal is, that in 5 years time, the elephants will be returned to the wild in Zimbabwe to live out their lives ‘naturally’. And this has all been given the go ahead under the pretence of ‘funding conservation’.
I use lots of quotation marks because quite frankly, I think it’s all a load of rubbish! Here’s why:
1. We all know about the issue of ivory poaching and the drastic threat it is posing to the survival of the African elephant. Well this is not necessarily a problem for the elephant population in Hwange National Park (where the infants were taken from), because like much of southern Africa, elephants here are actually relatively well protected and in some cases (I’ll discuss in a later blog – stay tuned) elephant densities are considered too high. So taking these infants from Hwange is not an issue in terms of depleting the Zimbabwe elephant population. BUT, at a time when conservation groups are drastically trying to teach the world that wildlife is NOT a commodity, Zimbabwe goes and sells elephants in the name of conservation! It’s like throwing shit at David Attenborough and telling the world he had an accident – defacing all the best intentions!
2. Anyone who has ever spent any time with wild elephants will tell you that they are the most magical creatures. I completely agree, and I think its because we can see so many ‘human’ emotions and concepts portrayed in herds of elephants. They think, they remember, they feel, they learn, the grieve. I think this is best portrayed by a tale a very special lady once told me… In a small private reserve in South Africa, there was once a matriarch called Buga. She was a frightfully strong willed lady and extremely protective of her herd. Unfortunately, this became her downfall. She became so protective that she started charging safari vehicles that strayed too close and eventually flipped one. She was deemed a dangerous animal and ordered to be destroyed. Where her body laid, her herd gathered. They stood stroking her lifeless remains for 2 days without leaving to feed or drink. Months later, when just bones remained, Buga’s skull disappeared. The only animal strong enough to move an elephant skull is another elephant. Where they took it we will probably never know, but in my mind, they took it and laid Buga to rest where they thought best.
The moral of that (deep – sorry) story is that these animals understand emotions we by no means give them credit for. How then do you think 24 mother elephants would react when their calves are taken from their side..?
3. The plan to return the ‘tamed’ elephants to the wild after 5 years is simply a ploy to beat off the animal rights activists. Realistically, transporting 24 adult elephants (they will grow in the next 5 years – assuming China plan to feed them and not dry them out and grind them up into some form of snortable, cancer-curing, magic powder) from China to Zimbabwe and all the associated logistics is likely to cost far more than £25,000 per elephant. Translocation from one South African reserve to another is no longer considered feasible due to costs, let alone flying 24 across the Indian Ocean.
Also, the idea of simply sending these elephants back out into the wild after 5 years of captive life and having never fully understood the wild world before their capture, what chance do these individuals stand in the wild anyway? Chances are, they would be too used to human contact and stray too close to human habitations, be classed as ‘dangerous’ animals and shot dead. Or better yet – they could sell the rights to shoot them to the highest bidder, and why not pretend the money from that will go to ‘conservation’ too (#thinkinglikeZimbabweanGovernment)?
4. With Zimbabwe ranked 156 /175 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (2014), the likelihood that the funds generated by selling these elephants actually being channelled into conservation, in my opinion, are non-existent. And with the current (mis)understanding of ‘conservation’ within the Zimbabwean government would we actually want them planning any more ‘conservation’?
Unfortunately, I think it’s a pretty bleak outlook for these poor individuals. They’ll be ‘tamed’ (and I dread to think about how they go about that) and remain in captivity for the rest of their lives, I am under no illusions that they will return to the wild (not that I think that is necessarily a good plan anyway). Let’s hope security is good in this Chinese safari park too, otherwise ‘conservation’ may have just delivered ivory to it’s consumers.
How this was allowed to go ahead in the first place is beyond me. I heard nothing from the WWF or Greenpeace.
Well, if we are going to assign values to wildlife, then consider that a WILD elephant brings in $1.6million in tourism over its lifetime! If Zimbabwean government was thinking, it wasn’t thinking long term when they sold each elephant for £25,000… Ripped off by China!
But really, elephants are not a commodity that can be bought and sold and owned. They are sentient beings and often I think they have more morals than this disgraceful human race.