Ben HaywardAugust 28th
2019

In a spot of much-needed good news, a near-total ban on the trading of baby African elephants to zoos has been approved.

The long-overdue ban means it will now be illegal for the endangered creatures to be removed from their homes and exported internationally following a ‘momentous’ decision from the European Union (EU).

Until now, African elephants from Zimbabwe and Botswana were allowed to be exported to what were deemed to be ‘appropriate and acceptable’ locations. 

However, ministers from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) were vocal in encouraging the EU to vote in favour of the ban at the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) conference in Geneva.

As a result of the ban, trading wild elephants from Africa will only now take place in ‘exceptional’ circumstances to be determined by a committee hearing.

It’s thought the move from the EU will have a particularly big impact on Zimbabwe, as the country has reportedly captured more than 100 baby elephants and sent them to zoos since 2012, according to Humane Society International (HSI).

Zimbabwe contested the decision, fighting to block the vote, but the motion was passed with 87 EU delegates voting in favour of the decision, while just 29 were against it and 25 abstained.

The wildlife director of HSI's Africa division, Audrey Delsink praised the decision, however said said it doesn’t go far enough.

"This is a momentous Cites decision for Africa's elephants,” said Ms Delsink.

"While it is disappointing that it is not an outright ban on trade in live elephants, the new language adds vital independent oversight and scrutiny.

"The capture of wild African elephants for export to zoos and other captive facilities is incredibly traumatising for individual elephants as well as their social groups."

The ban was endorsed by a number of high profile animal rights activists including Ricky Gervais and Judi Dench, who signed a letter to the EU's executive branch before it was agreed.

The letter said it would be ‘obscene for the EU to endorse snatching wild baby elephants and condemning these beautiful leviathans to a life of captive misery.’

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