HARARE - Zimbabwe's biggest conservation group Friday called for full transparency on the government’s sale of 35 elephants to China in December. The government, which has been scrambling for cash over the past year, initially denied reports of the sale.
Late Thursday, President Robert Mugabe’s government confirmed that it exported 35 elephants last month, despite having earlier dismissed the reports by the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force.
On Friday, Johnny Rodrigues, who heads the conservation group, said the secrecy raises concerns of corruption and inhumane treatment of the animals during their transfer to China.
“There is nothing being transparent about it, you can see it in Zimbabwe with corruption and greedy is so deep. These animals belong to Africa," said Rodrigues . "If you're going to export them, export to neighboring countries where the system is conducive and suitable for these animals."
Rodrigues says he doubts the money will be used for the benefit of the animals, as the government claims.
"They keep claiming that the money (out of the sales) is going into conservation," said Rodrigues. " I can’t see it. The Chinese donated four-point-something million (dollars). That was to contain poaching, it is not happening. But there are some people with hands on the pipe and making a lot of money at the expense of wildlife."
Last year, Zimbabwe's government said it would sell wildlife and use the proceeds to feed wild animals that were feeling the effects of a drought brought on by the weather condition known as El Nino.
Zimbabwe has an elephant population of over 83,000 - the second highest in Africa. But the number is dropping, as poachers kill the giant beasts for their ivory tusks, which remain in high demand in Asia.