Three dozen baby elephants at the centre of a controversy over the sale of wildlife to Chinese zoos have left Zimbabwe after they were loaded secretly on to a cargo flight.
Thirty-two of 37 young elephants were removed from a holding facility in Hwange National Park on Thursday morning and loaded onto a Saudia Cargo jet at Victoria Falls airport in the afternoon, sources close to the transfer said.
The five other elephants were rejected, apparently for health reasons.
The Zimbabwe National Society for the Protection of Animals confirmed the reports.
A source close to the society said the destination, buyers and condition of the animals were all unknown.
The young elephants have been at the centre of a legal battle since footage of them being held in the Hwange National Park emerged in February.
At the time, wildlife activists said the group had been sold to a Chinese safari park, and warned that the sale might breach Zimbabwean law because details of the deal, including the price, the customer, and the animals’ final destination, had not been made public.
Last week, the People and Earth Solidarity Law Network, a Zimbabwean NGO, warned the national parks authority that any attempt to export the elephants before the case was resolved would amount to contempt of court.
Tinashe Farawo, a spokesperson for Zimbabwe National Parks, said he was not aware of the transfer. — The Telegraph