Trade in live elephants from Zimbabwe to China

Updated on 12 January 2021
Further to the public statement issued by the CITES Secretariat on 18 December 2014, the Secretariat was informed by the CITES Management Authority of China (the Management Authority) on 3 July 2015 that it received an application to import 27 live elephants from Zimbabwe. 
The Management Authority explained that the Chinese authorities had requested and received from the authorities in Zimbabwe confirmation that: the Zimbabwean export permit received by the Chinese authorities was valid and authentic; the export would not be detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild;  and that the animals would be transported in conformity with recommendations of the Conference of the Parties to CITES found in Resolution Conf. 10.21 (Rev. CoP16) on Transport of live specimens.  
The Management Authority confirmed that, after a field investigation, the CITES Scientific Authority of China had advised that the proposed recipient of the elephants was suitably equipped to house and care for them. Finally, the information provided states that in accordance with Chinese national law an import permit had been issued by the CITES Management Authority of China.
In response to the Secretariat's further enquiries regarding this matter on 6 July 2015, the CITES Management Authority of China has further stated that 24 elephants have now been imported into China and that the elephants have been accompanied by 3 staff from Zimbabwe, including a veterinarian officer and 2 specialized elephant keepers who will work at the park for a few months with local staff. The Secretariat has been informed that there is no plan to import the additional 3 elephants that were included on the export permit. 
According to the Management Authority, the Chimelong Safari Park in Southern China's Guangdong Province is the destination for the 24 elephants; the elephants will be kept in a free range setting and none of the elephants will be used for performances in this safari park, which covers an area of 1.3 million square metres.
As explained in the Secretariat's statement of 18 December 2014, the population of the African elephant (Loxodonta africana) of Zimbabwe is included in Appendix II of CITES, following a decision taken in 1997 by the Conference of the Parties to CITES. This means that the Parties to CITES consider the African elephant population in Zimbabwe is not necessarily now threatened with extinction but may become so if trade were not strictly regulated.
There are a number of annotations to the Appendix-II listing of Zimbabwe's African elephant population, including an annotation that specifically allows for "trade in live animals to appropriate and acceptable destinations". The words “appropriate and acceptable destinations” are defined in Resolution Conf. 11.20 of the Conference of the Parties to CITES.
By virtue of the Appendix II listing and the various annotations to that listing, international commercial and non-commercial trade in certain specimens of African elephants from Zimbabwe (including live animals but excluding raw ivory) is allowed by the Convention subject to certain specified conditions being followed. These conditions are contained in relevant provisions of the Convention, particularly those of Article IV, as well as relevant Resolutions set out in the statement from 18 December, 2014.
The 181 Parties to CITES will next meet at the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP) to CITES to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa from 24 September to 5 October 2016.
CITES Secretariat
8 July 2015
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