A legal battle that will put to test Zimbabwe’s adherence to international conventions on wildlife management is on the cards following Advocates4Earth’s court application seeking an interdict to stop the government from exporting elephants to China.
Advocates4Earth is a Zimbabwean environmental group and is accusing China of subjecting elephants to unhealthy and unfriendly conditions.
In an application to Zimbabwe’s High Court, Advocates4Earth is seeking to prevent the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority from going through with the export.
Head of Advocates4Earth, Lenin Tinashe Chisaira, says the group just wants authorities to comply with existing laws.
“Basically, we are applying for a declaratory order that the Zimbabwe government and its agencies should respect international conventions especially the resolutions that African elephants, African wildlife should not be exported to destinations that are not appropriate for these species. The weather and environment is deemed unfriendly for these animals,” Chisaira said.
“We strongly feel that there is a desire by some agencies of the government to violate those agreements by exporting some of our species to countries such as China, without abiding by the existing legal framework,” he added.
Zimbabwe’s elephant population has grown in recent years, climbing to more than 100,000. Some farmers have complained that the elephants are destroying their crops and grazing lands. This prompted some sections of the society to advocate for culling, which Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association (ZELA), disproved in a statement.
“Culling is an immediate solution that will help with the overpopulation. However, culling will result in long-lasting effects on elephants and may have a negative impact on the majestic species in the long run,” the environmental lawyers said in a recent report.
“Research has shown that culling of elephants has long-lasting effects on those that survive and or are left behind. It leaves an impact on their social structure that can go on for decades.”
“Conserving elephant population is more than just a numbers game; it is also essential that complex social function is maintained as this is a crucial aspect of elephant biology and population integrity,” the lawyers argued.
The environmental lawyers said government should explore conservative methods that could be used to control elephants while also generating income, and suggested increased hunting quotas.
However, the Zimbabwe wildlife authority denies it is in the process of exporting elephants to China.
In the past Zimbabwe has exported elephants to other countries despite objections from animal rights and environmental groups, such as Advocates4Earth.