ZIMBABWE Parks and Wildlife (ZimParks) sold 101 sub-adult elephants realising a total of US$3,253 million for the period 2016 to 2019, Zim Morning Post has established.
Officials say the transactions were done according to national and international laws, in particular, CITES while animal activists assert the sale of sub-adult elephants by ZimParks to Asia is shrouded in mystery and benefits only corrupt dealers and politicians.
An agent identified as Liang Zhao who has previously been named as a central person in the exportation of sub-adult elephants to China is among the key players in documents seen by Zim Morning Post.
Reports of elephants being exported without valid certificates are rampant as the whole process has always been shrouded in mystery.
“There is nothing wrong in allowing independent observers to be part of the team that will be capturing and documenting the animals to be exported,” said one animal activist.
“Why is ZimParks doing everything in secrecy?“
ZimParks’ officials, however, insist claims that elephant sale proceeds are often misappropriated by politicians “are false and unfounded.”
The authority says it does not have “the luxury” to misuse funds when “it is not even getting enough to fund conservation”.
“ZimParks does not get funding from fiscus so such funds go a long way in addressing the conservation requirements. ZimParks’ finances are audited by both internal and external auditors. We have gone further starting this year to hold annual general meetings with our stakeholders and the general public,” a top ZimParks official said.
“The sale of elephants abroad is a transaction that has to pass through the board, be recommended to the minister for approval by the Permanent Secretary and get approval from the minister. The transaction has to get a nod from the Office of the President and Cabinet. The transaction is done according to National and International laws, in particular, CITES.”
“Both receiving and giving properties are assessed based on national and international guidelines. The giving population is assessed in terms of its biological sustainability. Thus Zimbabwe has a surplus of elephants and sustainable removals are being done without damaging the intrinsic biological capacity of the population to self-replace.
“The receiving site is subjected to suitability assessment by a Zimbabwe team. Elephants only go to facilities that have been cleared by the importing country. The captured elephants are those at weaning stage and above.”
On Friday last week Zimbabwe Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said they had been alerted of a shipment of “an unknown number of young elephant to an undetermined destination by Zim Parks.”
“Over the last week, ZNSPCA Inspectors have made repeated attempts at gaining access to the Zimparks Game Capture Unit located at Umtsibi in Hwange National Park. All attempts were unsuccessful as there were specific instructions to deny entry to our Inspectors. These orders we were told had been handed down from senior ZimParks officials,” ZNPCA said in a statement.
“Sadly, these young elephants were loaded under extreme temperature conditions with no apparent concerns given as to their welfare. We question the sanctioning of such an operation given the heatwave Zimbabwe is currently experiencing (official meteorological warnings having been issued). Given the lack of transparency, clandestine nature of this shipment and failure by ZimParks to uphold the rule of law, we once again appeal to all responsible authorities to conduct a full-scale investigation into this matter including all financial arrangements and transactions,” the animal rights group added.
Reached for comment ZimParks spoke broadly on the capture of the elephants saying it is done under humane conditions and upholding animal welfare aspects by qualified veterinarians.
“Elephants are transported to insitu bomas where they are acclimatized and get used to management in bomas and preparation for long-distance transportation. They are fed, watered and given veterinary care for at least 3 months. Security in bomas is 24 hours. The animals are screened of diseases to the requirements of the importing country,” ZimParks director-general Fulton Mangwanya said.
He added that ZimParks has no secrets.
“Animals are airlifted to destination country following IATA regulations and are accompanied by qualified veterinarians and capture experts. It’s a process and there is no way this type of transaction can be a secret. Completed CD1 form shows the amount of money coming into the country through commercial banks as payment of the elephants so ZimParks has no secrets, it’s working with various stakeholders and is willing and open to do so,” Mangwanya said.
Mangwanya also said all the deals were brokered before he took over as ZimParks director general so all he is doing is to fulfill business obligations.