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China Donates to Zimbabwe Wildlife

FILE - In this undated photo provided by the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Cecil the lion rests in Hwange National Park, in Hwange, Zimbabwe.

The recent killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe has sparked a flurry of Chinese aid to protect wildlife in the country.

Those are Zimbabwean officials, including Wildlife and Environment Minister Oppah Muchinguri, clapping after they received anti-poaching equipment worth $100,000 from a group calling itself the "Sino-Zim Wildlife Foundation Association."

"I want to thank our Chinese friends who have chipped in to give us a smile. So thank you so much for your support. And this is just the beginning of a journey," she said.

A patrol vehicle and uniforms for anti-poaching officials were among the donated items.

The group's founder, Li Song, explained the reason for assistance. "Here in Zimbabwe, a paradise of wildlife are facing serious challenges from poaching for trophies by syndicates or for meat by villagers. The pressure of poaching is being piled on the authority at a time there is inadequate resources to support its wildlife conservation. The Sino-Zim Wildlife Foundation Association therefore is aiming at coordinating efforts of the Chinese public and private communities to coordinate to mobilize resources and support for wildlife conservation in Zimbabwe," said Song.

The Chinese government has donated an additional $2.3 million to advance conservation efforts.

The Zimbabwean Conservation Task Force has previously accused China of decimating the country’s wildlife. The independent conservation group has complained about baby elephants being taken to zoos in China. China is known to be a major destination for illegally poached ivory and other wildlife products.

But conservationists hope a shift is underway. China declared a one-year ban on ivory imports earlier this year. The country has also pledged to phase out its domestic ivory industry.

The support follows the killing of what many considered an "iconic" Zimbabwean lion named Cecil in July. The lion was killed by an American dentist outside a protected reserve in Zimbabwe, sparking fury all over the world.