10th July 2015
The Elephant Story
by Johnny Rodrigues
In January 2014 we heard that Rowan Martin and Hank Jenkins were tasked with going around Zimbabwe to locate some elephants to be exported to China. They were apparently paid quite well for this and they finally decided on Hwange National Park.
In August 2014 tourists in Hwange National Park started complaining about helicopters flying overhead, frightening the elephant herds. When the herds bolted, the babies left behind were captured and put into a boma in Umtshibi , which is about 15 km from Main Camp in Hwange National Park. These babies were between two and five years old, still dependent on their mothers for milk. Dr. Joyce Poole [noted for elephant research at Amboseli National Park, Kenya] verified the ages of these elephants.
36 elephants captured
In all, 36 elephants were captured, three of whom died. One of the dead elephants was eaten by the locals. Thereafter, nine escaped and some were recaptured, leaving 27 in the boma. Ten lions were also captured and put into a boma in the same area.
We have been trying to stop the export of these elephants with the support of numerous organizations worldwide. Veterinarians for Animal Welfare Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe SPCA chapters at Bulawayo and Mutare tried to get into the area to inspect the welfare of the elephants, but they were not allowed to go in. The whole place was in lockdown.
In April 2015, cages, hydraulic equipment, and forklifts arrived at the bomas. The cages were painted with red oxide.
Who is Li Song?
In June 2015, a contingent of Chinese people arrived at the capture unit and the Zimbabweans were thrown out. A lady named Li Song was apparently there as well.
We heard that Li Song supplied boots to the army, air force, and prisons, and the Zimbabwe government owed her 3,6 million dollars which they could not pay. They apparently did a barter deal with her, giving her a piece of land in Mana Pools upon which she illegally chopped down trees and built a 26-room lodge.
In addition, we believe she was also given the elephants. Two hundred have been ordered in all. Li Song is supposed to sell the elephants to the Chimelong Safari Park in Guangdong, China, according to the information we have received, and the money is obviously not coming back to Zimbabwe. It will pay off the debt that is owed to Li Song. Twenty-four elephants were loaded and we do not know what has happened to the three who were left behind.
No Independence Day for elephants
On July 4, 2015, the elephants were loaded into the cages. This was after several “rehearsals” were done to ensure the loading went smoothly. Two interlink trucks belonging to Western Transport in Bulawayo arrived to collect the cages. The owner of Western Transport claims he doesn’t know anything about his trucks picking up the elephants. They spent most of the day loading and left Hwange at around 6:30pm. We found it interesting that the export took place on the 4th of July, which is the American Independence Day. They drove through the night to Harare International Airport, with armed police escorts, and arrived in Harare at about 8:15 the following morning.
There was very tight security around the airport. The plane the cages were loaded onto was a Chinese jumbo jet belonging to Unitop B747-200, registration number B2462. The flight number was UW9968, direct to Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong, China. The plane left at between 18:00 and 19:00. We believe the pilot was an ex-Zimbabwean.
China doesn’t have a good track record for treating animals properly and these elephants are likely to be subjected to a life of cruelty and inhumane treatment.
We have copies of two permits that were apparently issued for the export of four elephants at the end of 2014 and eight elephants and two crocodiles in January 2015. The permits look fraudulent, so we are trying to find out if those animals did in fact go to China.
In December 2014 seven elephants were exported to the United Arab Emirates. These animals were tamed, but they are still wild animals and therefore still dangerous. You can’t domesticate an elephant. You can tame them but you can’t domesticate them.
Chair, Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force
Landline: 263 4 339065
Mobile: 263 712 603 213
(See also: http://www.animals24-7.org/2015/01/14/zimbabwe-defends-export-of-elephants/; http://www.animals24-7.org/2014/12/09/update-re-baby-elephants-captured-for-export-to-china/; and http://www.animals24-7.org/2014/11/27/baby-elephants-abducted-for-export-to-china/.)