Embassy of Zimbabwe in China denied media reports that Zimbabwe had exported some variety of wild animals to pay for some military debt, saying that “Zimbabwe has not exported any game for purposes of settling some military debt or any debt at all.”
The Times newspaper reported on Monday that Grace Mugabe, the first lady of Zimbabwe, has recently sent a menagerie of safari animals to a Chinese wildlife park to pay for military uniforms for the Democratic Republic of Congo.
China’s State Forestry Administration (SFA) has confirmed that Zimbabwe has sent animals to China, adding that it was just “a commercial activity.”
An employee from the press office of the SFA told the Global Times on Wednesday that the administration has already approved imports of animals from Zimbabwe and claimed the imports were “in accordance with the laws and regulations.”
Johnny Rodrigues, the founder of Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, told the Global Times on Wednesday that they sent 35 elephants to China on December 21 local time and these elephants arrived in Shanghai on December 25.
India Times reported on Monday that the elephants were flown out of the country in a Boeing 747 to the Chimelong safari park in Guangzhou.
Employees from Chimelong refused to comment when reached by the Global Times on Wednesday.
Hu Chunmei, secretary of the Endangered Species Fund of China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation, told the Global Times that China has been importing elephants from Zimbabwe for a long time and it is legal for Zimbabwe to export elephants to other countries.
Countries like India, Spain, and the US have also imported elephants from Zimbabwe, reporter the Guardian newspaper.
Although elephant export is legal, it is still a controversial activity, said Hu, adding that captivity does no good to elephants and the practice of wild capture, along with long distance transportation disrupts the social structure of their herds.
She said that only “one out of four elephants survived when they arrived in China from Zimbabwe in 2014, and the elephants always fight with each other in the absence of a leader, which can cause serious injuries.”
While Cde Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, Zimbabwe’s environment, water and climate minister, said in 2015 that the country would export more wild animals to China, including elephants, baboons and hyenas, to protect them from the country’s dry season, and to raise resources to fight poaching, the Herald newspaper reported.