Over the last few months, there have been ongoing and alarming reports about a group of elephant calves held captive in enclosures in the Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe’s flagship wilderness area.
Inside sources, people on the ground in the park, have said that these animals were snatched from their wild herds, rounded up in a facility, and are now being readied for export to unconfirmed destinations around the world.
As news of this leaked to the public, there was a tide of outrage, a petition was created calling for their release, and a host of news stories reported that the animals were, allegedly, to be shipped to China.
In late March, Botswana held two meetings in Kasane – The African Elephant Summit and the Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade – attended by countries from all over the world, including Zimbabwe. I was assigned to cover the meetings and talk to delegates about the progress made on stemming the rampant illegal trade in ivory and other endangered species, but also, specifically, to see if I could find out more about the captive Hwange elephant calves and their yet-unknown fate.
Below are some of the conversations I had around the touchy issue – with the CITES Chief Scientist Tom de Meulenaer; the Minister for Botswana Tshekedi Khama; and, importantly, the Minister of Environment of Zimbabwe – Saviour Kasukuwere.
Listen to their comments and judge for yourself.