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Zimbabwe update: Cancellation of North Korea deal and release of animals

Many of you will have already heard the excellent news that the shipment of animals, including two elephant calves, from Zimbabwe to a North Korean zoo has been called off - thanks to concerted effort by many individuals and groups, both internationally and in Zimbabwe.

Our sincere thanks goes out to all of you - organisations and individuals – for adding your names to the weight of opposition to what would have been a disastrous arrangement for those animals!

The deal created an angry storm, and over 50 organizations from around the world signed our letter (180.02 kB) to the Director General Vitelas Chadenga of the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. The letter was followed up by numerous media - some of the links are listed at the bottom of this page.

The Zimbabwean authorities have said that arrangement was genuinely intended to raise urgently needed funds for habitat conservation, in particular cutting fire-breaks in Hwange National Park, where most of the animals had been captured. Furthermore, they have stated that they do not intend to undertake another capture of this nature.

However, this Statement of Reassurance is still not confirmed in writing – it is something that, together with other organisations and individuals, we are trying to secure. We see it as vital that this objective is achieved, partly since it is known that several other countries have expressed their interest in obtaining wild animals from Zimbabwe.

In the meantime there was an urgent need to ensure that the majority of the captured animals were released back into the wild as soon as possible. This operation took place a week ago coordinated by the Tikki Hywood Trust. The giraffe and zebra are being taken to a private game farm within Zimbabwe.

Unfortunately, the two juvenile elephants cannot be released immediately. Instead, they are going to be integrated into a group of other rescued elephants, at Wild Horizons Wildlife Trust - with the intention of releasing the group to the wild when they are ready to survive independently. This may take several years.

Releasing/caring for these animals, and the two elephants in particular, obviously carries a significant cost. The total of US$27,000 is made up of:

  • Immediate release of most of the wild-caught animals $3,000
  • Two years care for the 2 young elephants $24,000 ($6,000 per annum per elephant)

Together with Born Free Foundation and Tikki Hywood Trust we are currently reaching out to people and organizations that might be able to help in covering these costs. If you are in the position to contribute PLEASE contact Shelley(at-sign)bornfree.org.uk, Andrina(at-sign)bornfree.org.uk or Stephen(at-sign)bornfree.org.uk.

Once we have the assurance that Zimbabwe is banning the practice of capturing and exporting wild animals, we will try to raise funds for the much needed maintenance of fire-breaks in Hwange National Park. Many thousands of wild animals could be affected by devastating fires in Hwange if these fire-breaks are not kept up - and due to financial constraints in Zimbabwe the wildlife authorities do not have the resources to cover these costs themselves.

We congratulate the Zimbabwean authorities for considering the lives of these animals and cancelling their export to North Korea. We urge them to permanently ban the practice of animal capture for captivity - doing so would win Zimbabwe significant goodwill around the world.