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Zimbabwe's sad role in global elephant business
Zimbabwe is probably responsible for more African elephants suffering in zoos and circuses around the world than any other single country. The American Zoological Association elephant “studbook” shows that fully 25% of the living elephants in the United States originate from Zimbabwe.
In addition, a large number of elephants in that studbook are simply listed as coming from Africa – and some of these are known to come from Zimbabwe, too. Many of the elephants shipped to zoos have already died – some died even before they could be accounted for. In one shipment 63 baby elephants whose mothers and families had been killed in a culling operation were shipped to the US in a Boeing 747. Of these, 14 babies died within weeks of arrival and were never entered in the “studbook.”
Zimbabwean elephants have ended up all over the world and most have suffered a fate even worse than those shipped to the United States. Shubhobroto Ghosh, co-author of The Indian Zoo Inquiry(1.14 MB), describes in this synopsis (1.36 MB) the fortunes of African elephants in Indian Zoos and in particular a pair from Zimbabwe that were given in 1998 as a diplomatic gift to the Indian President. In his synopsis Ghosh strongly urges range states to leave free-ranging African and Asian elephants strictly where they belong - in the wild. In late 2009 India took the enlightened step of banning elephant from zoos - applauded from around the world.
We continue with to work to try to stop the shipment of elephants from Zimbabwe to North Korea, knowing all too well that Zimbabwe has shown little concern for the tragic consequences of this grim practice. We also know that several countries have expressed their interest in importing elephants from Zimbabwe, and can only hope that sound arguments, compassion and decency will prevail.
Photos below: Shankar, frightened (note temporal gland secretion and ear posture), is chased and beaten with bamboo sticks. Photo courtesy of Claire Palmer.
Shankar in the Delhi Zoo spends most of his life in chains and is regularly beaten (note the large scar on his forehead). He was gifted in 1998 by Zimbabwe to the Indian Government as one of a pair. He is now approximately 14 years old; his female companion died a few years after shipment. Photo courtesy of Nina Kanderian of Wildlife Conservation Society Afghanistan.