Environmental lawyers under the banner People and Earth Solidarity Law Network (PESLawyers) on Friday, last week made a court application against Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZIMParks) and the Ministry of Environment demanding the release of all information relating to the planned export of elephants to foreign countries.
In the founding affidavit where PESLawyers’ Director, Lenin Chisaira is the applicant, Zimparks (1st respondent), under the stewardship of its Director-General (2nd respondent) and the Minister of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry (3rd respondent) has initiated a process of sale and translocation of young elephants to China and this is still in motion.
“Applicant (PESLawyers) has requested for information on the transactions which forms the basis of the sale and translocation of baby elephants in issue in the interests of the public and the 1st Respondent has failed, refused and neglected to render such information,” Chisaira says.
“Much of the factual matrix that founds this matter has been a shroud in secrecy by the 1st Respondent and it has wantonly spurned any efforts to release the information to the public domain and to avail same to applicant.”
PESLawyers are looking for information on the number of the elephants being exported to China and any other countries, the specific reserves or parks for the calves that are being exported, the exact particular buyers of the beasts and also the dates and mode of transportation of the animals.
“Applicant further maintains that it is imperative that the information on the quantity, frequency and financial gains or other gains realized from the exports of theses elephants be availed to be general public and concerned citizens and the Respondents’ refusal to avail same is a direct contempt of the domestic laws of the land and international instruments to which Zimbabwe is a signatory and has ratified,” Chisaira says.
“It is also Applicant’s position that availing information on the export of elephants would assist it in interrogating the circumstances under which wildlife is exported with a view to curbing illicit trade in animals, abuse and cruelty and animals which usually emanates from changed environment and placing animals in unfriendly environments.”
“It is Applicants’ firm belief that the lack of transparency regarding wildlife and environmental management generally has the potential of violating people’s constitutional rights to environmental conservation and this also extends to the rights of the affected elephants as research shows that they suffer effects of social disruption decades after culling,” Chisaira went on.
The exportation of elephants from Zimbabwe to China and France came into public attention after a video of game ranchers loading calves into a truck circulated on social media.
The Government responded by saying that elephants were increasing in number so there was the need to reduce the population.
Before applying to the courts, PESLawyers made a petition to the Parliament of Zimbabwe for information on the exportation of wild animals in the country.