September 20, 2016
Jane Flowers, Blasting News
Cecil the Lion's legacy lies in his family but at least one of them might end up in a zoo in China. Despite an outcry from conservationists, the government of Zimbabwe is determined to continue their export of wildlife to China. The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF) released a statement on their Facebook page on 17 September confirming that the Zimbabwe Wildlife Department is currently fulfilling a further order of 130 elephants and 50 lions. They stated that "it is suspected that one of the male members of Cecil’s pride has been captured too and is ready for export to China."
Could Cecil the Lion's relative be on the way to China?
In their latest Facebook update, the ZCTF have drawn attention to other facts surrounding the export of these live animals. According to them, the government has also captured giraffe and hyenas, along with a number of young elephants and lions. The report that one of the young lions could belong to the family of the Cecil the Lion who was shot and killed in 2015 by American dentist Walter Palmer, is not yet confirmed. Nevertheless, the possibility that a relative of the iconic lion who's death caused an international sensation is one of the captured animals is high, as the capture is going on in the reserve where Cecil lived.
Exported baby elephant died in China
In 2015 Zimbabwe Wildlife authorities caught media attention when they captured and exported 24 sub-adult elephants to China's Chimelong Safari Park. One of the elephants subsequently died in December 2015. The "Zimbabwe Independent" reported in January that the elephant may have died from pneumonia.
Sale of live wild animals and Cites
At the time of the report, ZCTF director Johnny Rodrigues told the "Zimbabwe Independent" that they hoped #Cites would address the export of live animals. The 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP17) is set to happen in Johannesburg, South #Africa from 24 September to 5 October 2016, but there is no evidence that the conference has the issue high on their agenda, if at all.
Infrastructure development eases export
With the government spending money to lengthen the runway at the nearby Victoria Falls airport and expanding the sizes of the capture bomas at the Chisarira reserve, the ZCTU are concerned this could mean that animals exported by air to China will no longer need to transit via Harare city where they are more likely to attract media attention.
Monkey for lunch in a National Park
Apart from the issue of exporting the live elephants and lions, the ZCTU has pointed out that Zimbabwe is the only country in the world that "that routinely kills animals on a Thursday to feed the National Parks staff." They produced images of skinned monkeys which are apparently being used to feed the staff working in the game capture unit. They have also mentioned that some animals are being beheaded to be sold as trophies. It is hoped that those who stood for Cecil the Lion will now pressure CITES to address the Zimbabwe policy of selling off their wildlife.