“Some 24 elephants are en route to China as we speak after they were taken from their families in Hwange national park,” Johnny Rodrigues, chairman of the animal rights group Conservation Task Force told AFP.
Rodrigues claimed the calves were kept in cages at a secret location before being flown to China on Sunday night.
“The conditions in which these animals were exported are extremely cruel,” he said, “and we condemn the whole idea of separating baby elephants from their mothers.”
Zimbabwean wildlife authorities have defended the sale as a measure to raise funds for conservation. An elephant is estimated to fetch between $40,000 and $60,000.
In April, US-Canadian actress and animal rights activist Pamela Anderson petitioned the Zimbabwean government over the export of the animals to China. She said the forced separation would cause them emotional stress.
The government says Zimbabwe is home to 80,000 elephants but can cope with only 42,000.
Rodrigues said authorities had overestimated the numbers and urged the government to use alternative methods to control the population rather than resort to exports.
This article was first published by The Guardian on 07 Jul 2015.
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