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Elephant sale ban

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by iluvwhales, 21 Aug 2019.

  1. iluvwhales

    iluvwhales Well-Known Member

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    https://phys.org/news/2019-08-wild-elephants-zoos-closer.html
    UN Bans Sending Baby Elephants from Wild to Zoos and Circuses
    Bloomberg - Are you a robot?

    So Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Namibia will soon be forbidden from selling wild elephants to international zoos. Here's what I think:

    Pros:
    -No splitting of elephant families
    -No chance of elephants going to substandard conditions (not that all zoos are bad for elephants, but considering that state of some zoos in US and China it was sadly an obvious possibility)
    -No cruelty from the moment the elephants are captured to when they reach their final destination
    Cons:
    -No new blood potentially improving the captive gene pool
    -What if there's another drought and a group of elephants need to somehow leave the area? The elephants that went to Dallas, San Diego, Omaha, Wichita, and Tampa in 2003 (Tampa and SD) and 2015 (Dallas, Omaha, & Wichita) were all threatened with culling due to overcrowding and competition for resources with rhinos.

    What do my fellow Zoochatters think?
     
  2. AmbikaFan

    AmbikaFan Well-Known Member

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    Well, first, there should already be provisions in place that distinguish the use of animals for entertainment versus conservation. US Fish and Wildlife made the rental of pandas to US zoos not only contingent upon their use in those zoos to conservation of the species, but the monies paid to China being provably used for conservation purposes. These are requirements of CITES, but it's up to individual countries to enforce both the spirit and letter of the law.

    If China has indeed purchased elephants, and purchased only baby elephants, that would seem to be a clear violation of CITES. The interest in babies suggests entertainment as the prime motivator, not conservation.

    Until very recently when an activist declared that the US imports were "purchased," I was under the impression that this was a situation in which adult elephants who would have otherwise been culled/killed were being rescued to US zoos for purposes of conserving the species. The fact that calves played no role (except that one female was later found to be pregnant) suggests that entertainment was not the primary purpose. Furthermore, the fact that these elephants would have been killed is clearly worse than being sent overseas, except to activists who reveal their real agenda by preferring death. Just recently, though, an activist alleged that money changed hands for the elephants rescued from culls in 2012 and 2015. While everyone assumed that the US zoos were paying for transport, handlers to aid in the transition, food, permits, etc, there was no suggestion that a price had been paid to purchase the elephants. I immediately feared that this revelation, if true, could be very important. Rescuing elephants from certain death from conservation purposes would not violate the spirit of the CITES law; buying elephants to rescue them from culling suddenly sounds like a financial ploy on the part of the African countries, an artificially-sudden decision to threaten a cull to make a pseudo-sale possible. If US funds were found to have indeed been paid per elephant, this will permanently discredit our motives and make US zoos look unfortunately similar to the Chinese purchase of babies for entertainment.

    It would undoubtedly help conservation of the species if "rescues" were allowed to continue, to help develop a genetically-diverse assurance colony in human care. However, the UN is right to look skeptically, especially at Zimbabwe, who clearly looks at its elephants as a natural resource such as oil or minerals that could be sold for great profit. Their desire to have the ivory ban lifted is alarming, and it suggests that the country would be happier to have trophy killing or even ivory-killing rather than zoo "rescues" because it's far more lucrative. Since Zimbabwe at least seems unlikely to enforce CITES the way (I thought) Fish and Wildlife and other countries other than China are doing, I think the UN should lay out a more specific law that prevents the countries from trophy killing, sale of ivory, and sale of animals for entertainment. But I think there should be a provision that allows for the "rescue" of animals that are in demonstrable danger due to a NEED for culling, only by accredited facilities who will be practicing active conservation. If money is to change hands, the money must be spent on in situ conservation of elephants or other endangered species in the country of export.

    I think such specification will not only keep these range countries from killing their own animals for profit, but could serve as a fine reminder of the world view on conservation as the US weakens its own Endangered Species Act for the sake of profit.
     
    Last edited: 21 Aug 2019
  3. DelacoursLangur

    DelacoursLangur Well-Known Member

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    I am just going to start off by saying that I think it is a ridiculous waste of time for the UN Convention on Trade of Endangered Species to be focusing on, hopefully it was a footnote and they were discussing the much more credible threat of the worldwide extinction crisis instead...

    That said I do understand where they are coming from, the article specifically says "Cites says Zimbabwe has sent more than 100 baby elephants to China since 2012, traumatizing the animals who it says are beaten, kicked, and treated cruelly by their handlers. Several have died." Almost all Chinese zoos are decades behind western institutions in the care and reproduction of elephants, and thus they will continue to rely upon imported calves. This could potentially stop this practice before it becomes more of a problem as China's entertainment demand increases.

    As for zoos within the AZA and EAZA, very few elephants have been imported and the money flowing the opposite direction from fundraising more than makes up for any impact it might have. It should also be said that from the humane front in the case of US zoos they imported whole intact herds rather than individual calves. Potentially inserting care requirement clauses and mandatory breeding programs into the legislation could push sub-par western zoos, as well as Chinese institutions to get with the program if they desire elephants, however this seems unlikely at this time.
     
  4. DelacoursLangur

    DelacoursLangur Well-Known Member

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    I always assumed there was some monetary benefit changing hands in the recent AZA elephant "rescues".. However I disagree with the notion that this makes them similar to Chinese imports, or even that they were bad. For one they moved whole herds rather than individual calves. For a second they will be joining a large breeding program with a plan for sustainability. And for a third they will be going to facilities which are up to modern care standards (space, family groups, water features, enrichment, and indoor sand flooring). While obviously I would hope everyone involved had the animals and species well being as their top priority, no deal like this is ever that clean cut, especially when dealing with a poorer nation like Zimbabwe..

    All this said zoos should really be focusing on importing more threatened species at this point anyways. If zoos really want more elephants they will need to collaborate breeding efforts within the AZA, EAZA, JAZA, and ZAA. Also if China decided to up its standards and ethics within the CAZG that would contribute some valuable genetics aswell...
     
  5. AmbikaFan

    AmbikaFan Well-Known Member

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    For activists, purchase + entertainment is different from rescue + conservation. And they're latching onto that because one is allowed under CITES and the other is not. Purchasing an elephant for entertainment is technically no different than buying ivory for enjoyment. CITES distinguishes between what will help conserve a species and what will not. I fully believe we have complied with CITES and that Fish and Wildlife has enforced real diligence, but if some countries refuse to enforce CITES, like China and Zimbabwe, further clarification between entertainment and conservation and profiteering and conserving can help by clearly identifying rescues like the Swazi herd or of Bornean elephant Chendra for the conservation efforts they are.
     
  6. DelacoursLangur

    DelacoursLangur Well-Known Member

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    Fair enough, you are approaching this much more diplomatically than I.
     
  7. Elephantelephant

    Elephantelephant Well-Known Member

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    There are plans to bring some more elephants from Africa. Will they be imported, or has this plan been canceled? I think that if zoos in America don't import an elephant because of popularity and not so often, it's not bad (of course, only orphaned elephants or elephants who would otherwise have been killed). Unfortunately, activists misrepresent many of these things. It's not about catching wild elephants and placing them in the zoo and mistreating them. Unfortunately, China should stop importing elephants, as they do not reproduce them anyway, they only have them as an attraction. Most elephants in China have never had a calf, and most of them have not even been allowed to do so (no bull, terrible conditions).
     
  8. AmbikaFan

    AmbikaFan Well-Known Member

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    Yes, any new acquisitions would not be permitted if this ruling goes through as stated. Activists fampusly use the word "kidnapped" to describe any animal taken out of the wild. They're anthropomorphizing an animal by using a term used for humans to give the situation emotional charge. It damages our chances dramatically--as seen with this ruling-- because China has bought only calves, for entertainment only. Perhaps we can hope that once they grow up and are too big for their holdings, that they'll let zoos in Australia, Europe, or the US have them to help with conservation.

    But the problem is that we can't really oppose this kind of ruling because Zimbabwe needs to be reigned in. They are willing to sell elephants and want the ivory ban lifted, so one has to wonder just how many more elephants they are selling to ivory smugglers. We just need the UN to provide a loophole that allows for exportation of animals about to be culled or who are seriously injured and can't live in the wild.

    I'm not a lawyer, but this whole issue starts to hinge on a legal issue. Animals are viewed as property under most law, not as humans who can be "kidnapped.". The world has not told nations they can't use their natural resources of oil, diamonds, minerals, etc, and I'm sure these African countries feel that their animals are their natural resources and that they should be free to use them as they please under that rationale to bring much-needed revenue into poor countries. They have been restricted since CITES, but there is no national policing body, so any country like China that wishes to interpret a sale of babies as conservation still has the power to do so.
     
  9. Elephantelephant

    Elephantelephant Well-Known Member

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    Personally, I see nothing wrong with transporting orphaned calves to zoos, but activists denounce it as kidnapping and abuse. Most salvaged calves can not be released again into nature anyway. I think that an exception could be made in the law to allow the importation of orphaned elephants and those at risk of being killed, to zoos. Activists would not want these elephants to be taken to zoos, so would they rather have them killed? It has nothing to do with nature conservationists.
     
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  10. AmbikaFan

    AmbikaFan Well-Known Member

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    I agree with you. Orphaned calves should be treated as rescues. However, when all of the Chinese zoos demanded babies, I'm not at all convinced that the babies sent were orphaned or that announcing a cull meant that they really intended for a cull to take place. I think Zimbabwe has been manufacturing elephant-sale opportunities that can get around CITES limitations.
     
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  11. Elephantelephant

    Elephantelephant Well-Known Member

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    It is unnecessary for China to maintain African elephants. Their population is not sustainable and they are therefore dependent on the import of ever more elephants, which again usually do not reproduce. However, elephants could sometimes be imported into the US as new blood for the local population.
     
  12. AmbikaFan

    AmbikaFan Well-Known Member

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    Just imagine what could happen in China as those cute calves grow up and are no longer desired. A Chinese cull? Unfortunately, China makes the activists' claims that zoos only want elephants for entertainment seem well-founded.....
     
  13. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Well-Known Member

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    It would be far better for Chinese zoos to develop both the expertise and the exhibits to allow for the keeping of matriachal herds and regular breeding. That way there would be much less demand for imports, the zoos would improve themselves, and the Chinese public would receive a much better zoogoing experience.
     
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  14. AmbikaFan

    AmbikaFan Well-Known Member

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    Absolutely!
     
  15. Elephantelephant

    Elephantelephant Well-Known Member

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    But the question remains whether China is even interested in keeping large groups of elephants.
     
  16. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Well-Known Member

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    The same thing could have been said about Europe several decades ago.
     
  17. AmbikaFan

    AmbikaFan Well-Known Member

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    Europe acted in time and has a population now that is probably self-sustaining. But the US, which is eager to hold matriarchal herds, can't replenish the population significantly enough to change the current death/surviving birth rate. How could China even get the animals necessary to build large groups of elephants?

    And something that's been stuck in my head:. With its location in Asia--where surely an elephant transfer could be arranged quietly on its borders--and the possibility that there are even isolated herds of elephants within Chinese borders, why has China purchased so many African elephants? Perhaps because they seem more "exotic"? That and taking only babies suggests their primary interest really is in novelty, entertainment. Unless they can no longer just buy what they want from the wild--the way the whole world did until CITES--they probably see no reason to enter into an expensive and difficult endeavor.
     
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  18. lintworm

    lintworm Well-Known Member

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    China is a very active player in Africa and its activites there can be seen anywhere on the scale between foreign aid / buying influence / neo-colonialism. With ever stronger ties between many African nations and China it is no surprise many African species pop up in Chinese zoos.
     
  19. AmbikaFan

    AmbikaFan Well-Known Member

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    Ah, I see. Thank you!