Conservation groups, elephant experts and biologists around the world have united in their condemnation of Zimbabwe's plan to ship an 'Ark' of wild animals to North Korea.
The plan, handed down by Robert Mugabe in a Presidential Decree, is to send two of each species of mammal found in the Hwange National Park to North Korea. Wildlife authorities, who last week denied the deal, on Wednesday moved to defend the sale. Addressing a press conference in Harare, National Parks director Vitalis Chadenga said the shipment was a "legitimate business arrangement."
"It's not an illegal shipment. From our professional judgement, these people have the capacity to handle these animals," he said.
The animals include two eighteen month old elephant calves that Mugabe is said to be giving as a 'gift' to his Korean counterpart, although Chadenga told reporters that North Korea had paid US$10 000 each for the calves.
Zimbabwean conservationists have warned that the babies will not survive that trip to Korea, with elephant experts stating that elephants so young cannot survive without their family group.
BornFree is one of more than 50 organisations that have joined together to protest the plan of the 'ark of death'. On Friday they said they are fearful that the capture, transport and incarceration of these wild animals in North Korea "will lead, for many of the animals, to an untimely, and entirely unnecessary death."
Despite the global condemnation of the plan, reports suggested that five other countries are now requesting a similar transfer of animals from Zimbabwe.
Will Travers, President of the Species Survival Network (SSN), stated on Friday that the general public "cannot sit back and watch this tragedy unfold. We ask everyone to join us in the condemnation of this terrible act of injustice for wild animals."
Meanwhile, Dr. Joyce Poole, Co-Director of the animal rights group Elephant Voices, and a world authority on elephants, has written a letter to the Zimbabwean authorities, outlining the reasons why the practice of elephant capture must be abolished. Her letter has been endorsed by these 50 organisations from around the world, plus numerous individuals.
"We simply know too much about the social, emotional and cognitive lives of elephants to ignore the suffering caused by the abduction, capture and incarceration of individuals. Capturing and shipping baby elephants around the world is inhumane and unacceptable," Dr. Poole said.