By Staff Reporter
HARARE – The twenty-four elephants the Zimbabwean government sold to a Chinese zoo this month are malnourished and peppered with injuries according to secret pictures published by the National Geographic website.
Activists were up in arms when the Zanu PF government made the decision to sell the elephants for an estimated £25 000 each. The animals were shipped to China via Dubai on July 5, headed for China’s Chimelong Safari Park, a vast Chinese corporate leisure centre in the southern city of Guangzhou.
The 300-acre Chimelong Safari Park already has a poor record of keeping animals in poor conditions and it was no surprise when pictures leaked showing the recently arrived elephants to be in poor health.
According to a Daily Telegraph report the pictures “show the animals penned in small concrete and metal enclosures, eating straw. Their flanks appear thin and circular wounds can be seen on their skin.”
Chunmei Hu, who works for a Beijing based environmental NGO called Nature University, took the pictures. “I have seen at least 23 elephants,” she told National Geographic. “Most of the elephants have been hurt.”
Her concerns were echoed by Joyce Poole, co-founder of ElephantVoices, a Kenya-based research and advocacy organisation, who said the elephants appeared to have lacklustre skin tone, a mottled complexion and abrasions.
Poole said some of the injuries visible on their skin could have been inflicted by people or caused by infighting on the long journey, or been made by poker-like “billhooks” used by zoo staff for transport and training animals.
“These calves look really horrible,” she told National Geographic. “They are covered with so many smaller and larger wounds that no matter what they were caused by, the owners and/or handlers must be held accountable.”