POLL: Should African countries be allowed to sell elephants to China?

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In October 2014, tens of young elephants were taken from their family groups in ’s , where they were held in a capture unit for eight months until July 2015. That’s when 24 were flown to the Qingyuan quarantine facility in Guangdong Province before being transferred to Chimelong Safari Park, also in Guangdong.

Oppah Muchinguri, Zimbabwe’s minister of environment, water and climate, said that more of the country’s wildlife will be captured and sent to to give them a better and safer environment, according to the China Daily. Muchinguri spoke during a visit to the Qingyuan animals and plants preservation center, Guangdong, on New Year’s Eve.

“We are happy that young African animals have been well accommodated here in China,” she said. “We are willing to export more in the years to come as it would help in the preservation of wild animals.”

This female, one of 24 elephants airlifted from Zimbabwe to China in July 2015, suffered a wound while housed in the Qingyuan quarantine facility. Zimbabwe’s environment minister said the country is willing to export more elephants to China this year. Photograph by Nature University

In September 2015, National Geographic reported that the elephants in China were being mistreated and were slipping into poor health.

Previously, in 2012, Zimbabwe exported eight elephants to China, according to a database produced by the Convention on International Trade in Wild Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES), the international body that sets wildlife trade policy. Only four survived the journey. Another three died shortly after arriving in China, leaving only one surviving elephant.

Export of elephants is sanctioned under CITES, as long as trade in individual animals or plants doesn’t threaten the long-term survival of the species.

Elephants Die Sooner in Zoos

A 2012 Seattle Times report found that elephant births in U.S. zoos have failed to offset deaths, which will lead to the demographic of the country’s zoo elephants in the next 50 years. Half the elephants documented in the study were dead by age 23, about a third of their expected life span in the wild of 50 to 60.

The report noted that the infant mortality rate for elephants in zoos is 40 percent—nearly triple the natural rate in the wild in Asia and Africa. Most had died from injury or disease associated with their captive conditions: foot and joint disease, reproductive disorders, infertility, aberrant behaviors such as infanticide.

According to Marc Bekoff, professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and cofounder, with Jane Goodall, of Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, “long-term and detailed scientific research has amply demonstrated that the capture and removal of young elephants disrupts social groups and causes intense distress in the captives and those left behind.” This, he said, makes “the proposed import all the more cruel and unethical.”

Too Many Elephants?

But according to China Daily, Muchinguri justifies her government’s decision to export more elephants on the grounds that Zimbabwe now has too many in the wild—some 85,000 according to her estimate, which is about 40,000 more than the number reported by the Specialist Group of the International Union for of Nature (IUCN), which produces a widely accepted international list of the conservation status of species.

“Because of the bad weather, including drought, we cannot keep the large population of elephants any longer. They consume lots of water, and they need lots of food, which we cannot afford,” Muchinguri said.

“We would rather export and sell more elephants and other animals to those willing to take care of them,” she said.

Cynthia Moss, director of the Amboseli Elephant Research Project, in Kenya, says “other management alternatives, including water point management, corridor creation, and local translocation are now accepted as best practices.”

If it’s determined that an ecosystem has more elephants than it can support, taking young elephants away from their mothers and family groups and subjecting them to a captive existence would, Moss says, “be a return to practices now considered outmoded by modern wildlife managers.”

A Commitment to Wildlife Protection

During his first state visit to Zimbabwe, in November 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that his country is committed to wildlife protection and will provide Zimbabwe with more assistance to help achieve it.

“China attaches great importance to wildlife protection and has made remarkable progress in wildlife habitat conservation and breeding,” Xi said while visiting a wildlife sanctuary outside the Zimbabwean capital, Harare.

China is not the only country intent on importing African elephants to zoos.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently made public a permit request for the import of 18 wild-caught young elephants from Swaziland to the Dallas Zoo, in Texas, the Henry Doorly Zoo, in Omaha, Nebraska, and Sedgwick County Zoo, in Kansas. The decision to grant the request is imminent.

The zoos argue that there’s no safe place in Africa for the elephants to go and that by taking the elephants in, they’re contributing to the survival of the species.

But many experts, among them, Phyllis Lee, director of the Amboseli Elephant Research Project, and Joyce Poole, codirector of Elephant Voices, say that zoos “serve no credible conservation purpose.” That’s because none of the elephants or their offspring will be returned to the wild—“the gold standard of conservation.”

The view of the IUCN Specialist Group for African elephants is that captive breeding makes no effective contribution to conservation, and the group doesn’t endorse the removal of African elephants from the wild for any captive use.

As Marc Bekoff puts it: “The shameful complicity of the zoos is being sold as ‘conservation,’ when it’s nothing more than a business deal to restock zoos’ elephant exhibits.”

This article was first published by National Geographic on 01 Jan 2016.

We invite you to share your opinion whether African countries should be allowed to sell elephants to China? Please vote and leave your comments at the bottom of this page:

Should African countries be allowed to sell elephants to China?

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In the event that you voted no, please sign the petition:

Demand That Zimbabwe Exports NO MORE Young Elephants To China!

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Irene Leggett
Irene Leggett

F**k CHINA and all the other Asian countries. CHINA is the most brutal, cruel, barbaric, sadistic country on this planet. The country does NOT give a damn about any species that lives on this earth, it truly is the country at the bottom of the cess-pit for depravity, cruelty and brutality. Perhaps the rest of the world ought to start abusing, torturing, killing and eating their ‘beloved’ pandas, just so they know what it feels like to the rest of humanity when they abuse, torture, kill and eat every species that walks, flies, crawls or swims.


Les éléphants sont des animaux libres et doivent le rester. C’est indigne de prélever des bébés éléphants, de les enlever à leur mère en plus pour les envoyer dans un pays qui maltraite les animaux.Mais c’est seulement pour le fric ils n’en on rien à faire du bonheur des animaux Les éléphants ne leur appartiennent pas. L’homme se croit tout permis il faut que ça cesse cette domination. L’animal est plus humain que l’homme.

gaynor gadd
gaynor gadd

Nothing alive should ever be sent to that barbaric country!

Vona Clark

A big fat NO

Delbert Smith

The people of China raise dogs and cats to eat. What business is it of yours or mine what they eat. I dont tell you to only eat carrots.

Abigail Gilmore

Most of that true excepts they dont eat dogs apparently that's a lie

Abigail Gilmore

Big fat No!!! Elephants are going extinct because people are using there horns to make things excuse my LANGUGE but that fucking crazy those people can go rot in hell!!!

Tenley Erickson

He'll Ni

Tom Gammon

dont sell anything to the chinese they will torture kill and eat it they are a sick people

Michèle Gyselinck

If it could protect them from poachers it might be a solution, but are there any guarantees?

Norma Barkhouse Scott

NO, NO this is a barbaric country that thrives on horriffic abusing all animals….

Carole Fraser

Never ever should they be shipped to that brutal country Mass abusers of The Animal Kingdom Wicked Evil and Cruel .

Katie Capper Cox

No no

Catherine Alexander

Sadly I see people justifying this as if on some planet their "reasons" make it right. To those morons I say you are not thinking about anyone but yourselves and the almighty dollar. What would you want if you were and elephant? To be left the fuck alone. Our species is pathetic. A plague. Anyone who supports this should taste their own gun barrel while caressing the trigger.

Dingo Dingo CHaduneli

By all means, stop the hunting of elephants! And the prohibition of sending elephants drugoi country!

Liz Fischer

Hell NO!! The Chinese kill, eat and exploit every animal and living creature on this planet.

Jerrilynne Evitts


Eva-Lynn Podietz

my answer is NO, Nein, Non, Nyet, La (Arabic), Lo (Hebrew),

Eva-Lynn Podietz

this is a big no brainer. the word we all learned how well to say when we were about two years old: NO, nein, nyet, non, etc. etc. etc.

Chris Wild


Darly Smith

NO!…Remain in wild with families!

Barbara Jordan

No absolutely NO‼️‼️‼️‼️

Marjory Kephart

Tearing baby elephants away from their mother when they need her milk for many years is brutal. The Chinese treat animals horribly; they skin dogs alive and throw them into boiling water alive. Then eat them. Before that happens, they keep them in cages so small, they can't lie, sit or stand up straight. They beat them through the cages before they skin them. These baby elephants, rhinos and other wildlife are destined for a horrible life if they live long enough to get out of quarantine. They are going to a safari park to live. In case, the Zimbabwe… Read more »

Mimi Pritchett Louiso

If God damned Mugabe got a cricket team worth a shit, maybe he would be dissuaded from making more horrible decisions in his country.

Ashley M. Lee

No!!! Its no secret China sucks when it comes to animal care. Why would anyone send them more?!

Randy Prescott

HELL NO !!!!

Marie Bianicci

NO! African elephants are born in Africa and should never be sold or deport them out of their own country. They were created there for a reason and to upset natural order only leads to an unnatural
and unfair way of life that was never intended for these creatures.
When Africa allows people to murder,slaughter and buy their most precious gifts for the mighty dollar, what will they do when there are no more animals to kill for sell for money.
Wake up Adrica before it's too late! And the world is watching!

Sandra Honeycutt

Elephants and all natural wildlife are not the property of anyone. They have the right to live in peace and freedom just as humans have the same right. Leave them alone to live as nature intended them to. It's sadistic cruelty to force them to entertain or do heavy labor for humans.

Kristine A. Binette

NO WAY! They should be protected and put on the extinction list so they get that protection ASAP. They should not steal the babies that need their mothers and they also that animals horribly.
The elephants should live wild and free and it is up to us to protect them all, or we will no longer have elephants in years to come.

Delbert Smith

Tierra Chapman You say anything to defend nothing. YOu dont have any idea about the money hunting puts into the habitat. Who do yo uthink pays for the water holes across Africa? Bunny Hugger? No a chance! When you have put as much money into species restoration as I and my friends have then you might have some say. Watch I promise you , that you are the death of the beast.

Bidisha Sarkar

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO I can not see my children are dying.

Sandra Rose

No. No. No. China has a very bad record in the care of animals.

Jeanie Delgado

Don't sell or give China anything!! they are the cruelest nation for animal cruelty!I sign more petitions against them than any other country!

Janelle Tuero

The sooner China (mainly) is made to be accountable for all the crimes against wildlife the better. More species are been made EXTINCT annually due to Chinas ignorance and arrogance about the enviroment as a whole. "Yes" Chinas hands are clean …only because they pay 3rd wold wages to poverty stricken countries to do their dirty work. We HAVE to stand up to China and STAND up for the voiceless. Only then will this planet have a chance.

Adrian Appley

Of course China should not import elephants or any other animals as they have no respect for any of them. I would rate them on the same level as the sadistic Japanese. They are disgusting.

Meg Backe-hansen

Most definatley not.

Gabriella Paggi


Gladys Gauci

Definayely not. Elephants belong with their parents and in africa not china or anywhere else in zoos ar made to work to make people money

Tierra Chapman

You seem like the 'fighting for peace and f**king for chastity' sort of mentality. Killing a sentient being is not good for anyone other than the physically impotent and spiritually impoverished of your kind who enjoy killing over kindness. You will say anything to rationalize your bloodlust while failing to realize that people who do not enjoy abusing animals are NOT buying your rhetoric. Nor will we ever buy your blatant hype. We who abhor animal abuse aren't the animal's problem, we are the problem of trophy hunters, ivory poachers, and rhino horn delusionals who are committing crimes against Nature.… Read more »

Tierra Chapman

NO! Hell NO! And HUH UH!!! While I'm at it, a maggot infested dungheap has more integrity and moral compass than those who voted 'yes' in this poll.

Erika Aleidzans


Kaz Ward

No no no no effing way how China treat their animals.

Annick Danlos

Certainly not . African olifants do not belong in Chine. And I don't trust China re: animal abuse ! , …..

Antonia Ydal

Hno, no no. Those Chinese nuts are not to be trusted

Adrian Hey

Their care of animals is despicable so NO

Marti Guerra

No No No!! No more animal ( elephant) abuse!!

Faye Dowling

Linda French says it all.

Dennis Aran

Wow!…Such GREAT Comments and Truth. There is NOT much more to say. Chinas reputation far exceeds any positives regarding respect for animals. It is NOT in their culture to care for care for any animal. How about the government prove their worthyness and crack down on the art of Ivory Tusk Carvings and Sick mythilogical practices of Tiger Bones to name a few. Dogs and cats are brutalized and terrorized then eaten. CHINA has alot to prove but NOT at the risk of these endangered species being paraded in their zoos….They could end up in a Chinese Take Out Place… Read more »

Linda Hunn

They are a barabaric nation with no compassion for animals or the treatment of amimals!

Anju Chandarana