Victory! Trade of African Elephants to US Zoos Ended by Near-Total Ban

Victory! Trade of African Elephants to US Zoos Ended by Near-Total Ban

In a stunning move, the CITES Conference of Parties 18 in Switzerland has officially voted to ban the live trade of wild African elephants, effectively stopping the capture and exporting to zoos in the U.S. and elsewhere.

The new rule will make it virtually impossible for zoos in the U.S. to import elephants from Africa—something which was reportedly being planned. Loopholes were added to the rule before it was finalized so such transfers could technically still take place, but only with the unlikely approval of the CITES Animal Committee and the International Union for Conservation of Nature elephant specialist group under “emergency situations,” and where, “It is considered that a transfer to ex-situ locations will provide demonstrable in-situ conservation benefits for African elephants.”

In Defense of Animals has long opposed the capture and import of wild African elephants, who are often taken at a very young age and torn away from their families forever as they are sent to captivity in zoos overseas. Our Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants list for 2015 placed the Dallas, Omaha’s Henry Doorly, and Sedgwick County Zoos as the #1 worst zoos in North America for their role in taking 18 wild-caught elephants from eSwatini (formerly Swaziland). 

Now, transfers like this will be virtually impossible—much to the chagrin of zoos that want to profit off the lives of elephants. 

The U.S. delegation at CITES CoP18 voted against the ban—a move that clearly puts profits before elephants. The U.S. delegation was represented by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), a body which, in 2016 under director Dan Ashe, approved the controversial import from eSwatini. In 2017, Ashe became President and CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the organization that represents more than 230 captive facilities around the world, including three U.S. zoos that took the wild elephants from eSwatini.

In Defense of Animals will continue to be vigilant to ensure that no attempted imports from U.S. zoos go unchallenged.

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