A compromise was reached at the latest CITES meeting in Geneva regarding the issue of protecting African elephants , saving elephants from being captured in the wild and sold to zoos and other venues whose purpose is to hold them captive for display or human entertainment.
As the governing body on “global wildlife trade,” the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) meets with 182 countries and the European Union (EU) every two to three years to discuss proposals / issues of utmost importance to them. And the discussions focused entirely on elephants are always held high on their agenda.##
## “the most contentious debates at this summit, as in previous ones, swirled around elephants—with proposals about opening up ivory trade, closing down domestic ivory markets, and loosening the restrictions limiting Zambia’s elephant sales. All three failed to pass, leaving the status of elephants largely unchanged.”
“But one elephant measure was approved: a near-complete ban on capturing and sending African elephants from some countries to zoos and other captive facilities abroad. The issue, which stemmed largely from concerns about recent sales of young elephants to China and the U.S., preoccupied the concluding discussion. Zimbabwe, in particular, has recently sought to sell some of its elephants. ” NatGeo
The compromise introduced by the EU** was that “elephants should remain in their ‘natural and historical range in Africa, except in exceptional circumstances where … it is considered that a transfer to ex-situ locations will provide demonstrable in-situ conservation benefits for African elephants.’ “
“The clause said the decision should only be made in consultation with the CITES Animals Committee, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) elephant specialist group.” DM
**”The EU, which stands as a 28-vote block, wields the power to make or break proposals.“
Our African elephants won a small victory of sorts, anyway.
THOSE AGAINST THE BAN IE Those Who Support Capturing Wild African Elephants to Be Transported to Zoos & Other Forms of Captivity Worldwide
China & America Among a Handful of Countries Fueling the Demand For Wildlife Trade in African Elephants
- China has, since 2012, imported over 100 baby elephants from the African nation of Zimbabwe. The Humane Society International reported that the capture of these calves was for the sole purpose of confining them in Chinese Zoos. China has remained silent regarding their “future intentions“.
- The USA (at least those who have special interests in profiting off captive elephants) continues to propagate the backward beliefs that keeping massive African elephants confined for the purpose of human entertainment or in zoos for any reason is just and kind. Simply ask Dan Ashe (President and CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums) who feels that in order to have “an emotional connection” or to “feel empathy” with the endangered species one must observe them up close ( chained or behind bars). America did not give any indication that they intend to abolish these practices anytime soon.
- The African nations of Zimbabwe (estimated elephant population 82k), & to a lesser extent Botswana (estimated elephant population 130k), justify their sales of elephants by pointing out their need to “offset the costs of conservation by profiting from the nations’ wildlife” and also to the increasing human – elephant conflict threat (crop raiding elephants who are also capable of taking human lives).
In 2016 three American Zoos purchased a total of 17 elephants from Eswatini, that, through a loophole, they were able to accomplish (ship these pachyderms) despite the former Swaziland’s elephant population being “at particular risk of extinction”.
VOICES FOR THE BAN Those Who Are Against Capturing Wild African Elephants to Be Transported to Zoos & Other Forms of Captivity Worldwide
- Born Free Foundation (United Kingdom) Mark Jones “This outcome may not be perfect and watertight, but it is an outcome that sets a strong precedent and takes us much further down the road toward permanently ending the taking of elephants from the wild for captive facilities…” NatGeo
- Humane Society International / Africa : Audrey Delsink, wildlife director “‘…While it is disappointing that it is not an outright ban on trade in live elephants, the new language adds vital independent oversight and scrutiny…Public sentiment is shifting, and people are increasingly outraged at the senseless and cruel practice of snatching baby elephants from the wild to live a life as a zoo exhibit…” DM
- African Elephant Coalition (comprised of over 30 countries) Their members’ goal is to “preserve African elephant populations” They “want a world free from trade threats to the animals”. Kenya, especially (home to The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust now Sheldrick Wildlife Trust rescues elephants and runs an elephant orphanage) “argued that these species still need to be preserved and shouldn’t be involved in global commerce beyond current levels.” NatGeo
- Save the Elephants Nairobi, Africa : Frank Pope, CEO “It’s a huge victory for animal welfare that the abduction of baby elephants from their families to be held in zoos has been banned.”
- The IUCN African Elephant Specialist Group agrees that there is no “conservation benefit for wild elephants taken into captivity” and therefore they “do not endorse the removal of African elephants from the wild for any captive use”. NatGeo
“CITES PRESS RELEASE Geneva 7 August 2019 ‘CITES conference to strengthen wildlife trade rules for fisheries, timber, exotic pets, elephants and more‘” CITES
“African elephants can now only rarely be taken from the wild and sent to faraway zoos” by Dina Fine Maron for National Geographic online
“8 takeaways from the most important wildlife event you’ve never heard of” by Dina Fine Maron & Rachel Fobar for National Geographic online
“Landmark ‘near-total’ ban is now in place to stop African elephants being taken from the wild and condemned to captivity in zoos and safari parks” by Afp & Joe Pinkstone for Daily Mail Online
“CITES agrees on near-total ban on sending wild elephants to zoos” Afp
Images: CCFlickr: African elephant herd; African elephants with little elephants walking across road; elephant herd relaxing by waterhole by LaertesCBD
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