Cash strapped game reserves in Swaziland are holding 18 elephants hostage and threaten to kill them if they are not sold to American zoos. Managers of the group of reserves called Big Game Parks, claim that they have too many elephants and the pachyderms are destroying habitat and crowding out other species like the rhino. The truth of the matter is that the enclosure around the reserves are too small.
Swaziland is tiny in comparison to other African nations. The whole country would fit neatly inside the perimeter of Kruger National Park in neighboring South Africa. The elephant population is only about 40 strong in Swaziland and the managers of Big Game Park want to reduce that by about half. And this comes at a time when poachers are killing almost 100 elephants a day in other parts of Africa – threatening the very existence of the species.
It is pointless to take elephants out of the wild and ship them 9,000 miles away to be held in captivity.
The reserve managers do not need to look far to find natural habitat closer to home – including their
own government run reserves in Swaziland. This is not the first time this has happened. In 2003, 11
elephants from the same game reserves were sold to US zoos. This is beginning to sound like the
reserves in Swaziland are nothing more than breeding farms.
And one must also question the ethics and moral values of the administrators of a zoo that would want
to even consider taking wild elephants. But that is exactly what the Dallas Zoo and its cohorts are
planning to do. All imports of animals recognized by the Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species (CITES) must first be approved by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Buying and
selling of African elephants and ivory is prohibited under CITES. However, the Dallas Zoo is requesting
permission for an exception to this policy.
It is unethical and detrimental to the health of elephants to separate them from their natural family
herds and banish them to a life of captivity. Doing so will most certainly not provide any conservation
benefit to the species! It is dishonest for the reserve managers to claim that they have “too many”
elephants when the species has been completely exterminated in neighboring elephant range countries.
I view this as merely a tactical ploy to sell off the herd to the highest bidder with complete disregard to
the health and welfare of the elephant.
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