Baby elephants sold to Dubai zoo

The government has approved the export of five baby elephants by a game farm in the Grootfontein district.

09 May 2017 | Environment

Namibia is planning to sell five baby elephants to a zoo in Dubai. This was confirmed yesterday by the minister of environment and tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, who told Namibian Sun that a permit had been issued to export these elephants to Dubai.

According to Shifeta the elephants are between four and eight years old and are owned by Eden Game Farm, a private game farm in the Grootfontein district.

Shifeta could not confirm the sale price, saying that it was the owner's prerogative to set the price.

According to Shifeta the export will take place this year, if all goes according to plan.

He said the process went back a long time, but the ministry only became involved last year when an export permit was applied for.

Shifeta stressed that in line with CITES requirements the United Arab Emirates CITES Scientific Authority satisfied itself by issuing an import permit before the export permit was issued by Namibia.

The export of elephants is sanctioned under CITES regulations, as long as trade in individual animals doesn't threaten the long-term survival of the species.

Shifeta explained that prior to the issuance of the import permit the Namibian CITES management authority also had to satisfy itself that the elephants would not be used for primarily commercial purposes.

Shifeta said an export permit was issued to Eden Game Farm - a registered game dealer and a farm owned by a Swedish national - after it had been determined that the export would not be detrimental to the elephants' survival and that the elephants were obtained legally.

At the end of last year there was an international outcry after 37 baby elephants were forcibly taken from their mothers in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park and flown to Chinese zoos, despite outrage against previous exports. A number of baby elephants died shortly after being shipped to China in 2012 and 2015.

Asked about this, Shifeta said he was not worried about the same happening in Namibia as the exporter had satisfied all the relevant compliance procedures.

Shifeta said the baby elephants would be kept in isolation after capture and would be inspected to ascertain whether they were in a good condition before being exported.

Shifeta said although baby elephants were not often separated from their herds, it had been done before in translocations.

“When they are separated, they have to be tamed. They will now have to spend time in a different environment and in a contained space. It is a process to get used to and we have to make sure that they do not get stressed.”

Dr Betsy Fox of the Elephant-Human Relations Association told Namibian Sun that she disagreed with the idea of removing young elephants from their herds, describing it as “kidnapping them from their mothers”.

According to her the environment ministry has removed young elephants from their mothers in the past and they were sold at auctions to game farms.

“Take it from a person that has physically participated in this capturing. It is a bad idea. The fact is that elephants just do not make good zoo animals.”

According to her young elephants need to grow up with their families and learn from adults how to behave.

She said the young elephants that were previously sold to game farms grew up to be problem animals and were shot.

“It is a horrendous thing to disrupt the herd and can make it aggressive, which is dangerous if it takes place in a tourist area.”

Fox further says that young elephants experience trauma when they are captured, separated from their herds and then transported to an alien environment.

“They can experience severe depression. It is not worth the money to appease the Arabs. To go in and physically take them, to dart them and keep them away from their families... it is ugly.”

In 2013 Namibia exported ten rhinos and five elephants to a zoo in Cuba, concluding a massive translocation project of 135 animals taken from its national parks.

Despite animal rights groups protesting the capture of these wild animals, the 'Noah's Ark' project continued.

According to international zoological regulations, it is highly questionable and unethical to allow wild-caught animals to be kept in zoos.


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