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Saturday, May 22, 2010

WTF of the week: Wild animals from Zimbabwe being sent to North Korean Zoos.

from Mail & Guardian Online
Mugabe’s Ark sets sail for N Korea

Despite raging controversy over the sale of game to North Korea, Zimbabwe says it is exporting more wildlife to at least five more countries. Zimbabwe has begun rounding up wildlife destined for North Korea and would have completed the sale to Kim Jong Il's isolated dictatorship by the end of this month, a senior parks official said on Wednesday. North Korea is importing species of elephant, giraffe, jackal, zebra, catfish, civet, blue monkey and spotted hyena. The animals will be kept at a Pyongyang zoo, said Vitalis Chadenga, head of Zimbabwe's National Parks and Wildlife. The shipment, dubbed "Mugabe's Noah's Ark" by critics, has angered conservationists, who see it as a gift from one dictator to another. But there appears to be no stopping the deal, the financial details of which are being kept under wraps.

Chadenga said more applications from other countries are now being processed. "We have five applications which we are considering, from Mozambique, Japan and three other countries," he said. He dismissed the protests of conservationists, who charge that most of the wildlife will likely die en route to North Korea and that the Asian country does not have the facilities to provide proper care. "Zimbabwe is allowed to export animals throughout the world to appropriate destinations. Appropriate destinations must be examined by ourselves; we must be satisfied that the destination to which the animals are going will be safe and that the animals will not die. And we have satisfied ourselves in terms of [North Korea's] application," Chadenga said. He added that this was "a business arrangement we are happy to embrace", dismissing claims the live game is a gift from Robert Mugabe to his longtime ally Kim.

Chadenga said Zimbabwe had sent two experts to North Korea to assess if the country is fit to keep the animals. And despite protests from animal rights groups, it looks Kim will soon have his way. "We are satisfied that the recipients of the animals are suitably equipped to house and care for them. Therefore, Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority has duly conducted non-detriment findings for all species being exported."

Chadenga dismissed charges of Mugabe's personal involvement in the export of the game to Kim. "This is a purely business arrangement with no directive from government. The DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] is paying for the animals as well as meeting the capture and translocation costs." Apart from the elephants, the animals Kim is after are not on the list of endangered species. But existing international animal trade laws allow Zimbabwe to sell elephants to "acceptable destinations", Chadenga said.

Opponents of the Korean deal said Zimbabwe cannot afford to let go of any more of its game, with poaching on the increase. But conservationists now claim that the North Korean involvement in game goes even further. They said teams of North Korean and Chinese hunters are being given carte blanche to mow down big game in the western Hwange National Park, the country's largest game reserve.

Conservationists working in Hwange report that authorities have closed off sections of the park from the groups that are helping to run it. And they fear that, out of sight, game is being decimated. Conservationists have told the Mail & Guardian that poaching in Zimbabwe is driven by organised syndicates, some of them involving prominent figures - including foreign diplomats in Harare.

A report released in February by Willem Wijnstekers, secretary general of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, claimed the involvement of Zimbabwean security forces in the killing of 200 rhinos in the past two years. His report, however, did not name those he alleges to be involved. One animal rights activist said Zimbabwe had lost more than 30% of its rhino population in a surge of poaching in the past three years. Heavily armed gangs of poachers often clash with game rangers, but even when they are caught, the conviction rate remains low.

From Elephant Voices
Zimbabwe captures elephants and creates an angry storm

During the last week the international media has published a number of negative reports about the "ghoulish" capture and imminent shipment from Zimbabwe to North Korea of wild species of animals captured in Hwange National Park. In a press conference in Harare on Wednesday 19 May, Director General of Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, Vitalis Chadenga, reiterated that the impending export of elephants and five other species (giraffes, zebras, warthog, spotted hyenas and rock hyrax) is a “business arrangement” following an application by North Korea for these animals. He concluded that his authority is satisfied with conditions in the receiving country, and that Zimbabwe has similar applications from Mozambique, Japan and three other countries.

Front page letter Mr. ChadengaIn a collaborative, global effort on behalf of ElephantVoices and over 40 other organisations and elephant experts from around the world, Joyce Poole has sent an open letter (180.02 kB) to Mr. Chadenga, listing some of the many arguments for Zimbabwe not to go through with this gruesome "business arrangement". We point out that the deal with North Korea is in breach of criteria defined by CITES, and the practises involved are inhumane and totally unacceptable. The question of who initiated this arrangement, and why, is for us irrelevant. Our concern is for the animals, both short and long term. North Korea does not have a good reputation for the humane treatment of animals. Still in Zimbabwe, some of the captured individuals have already died and there is little chance of survival for the 18 month old baby elephants.

In the letter we remind Mr. Chadenga that Zimbabwe's continuing practice of the capture and shipment of young elephants is bound to lead to public petitions, campaigns, and increased negative publicity for Zimbabwe. We urge him not to underestimate the impact on world opinion of the distressing sounds and imagery of elephant calves and juveniles being forcibly separated from their families, captured and then undergoing inhumane taming and training methods, and a lifetime of incarceration in zoos and circuses.

We will continue to provide the international media with our views, and we urge those of you with media contacts to spread the letter and the word. And please show that you condemn the live export of elephants and other wild animals from their natural habitats by cross posting this page and signing on to Born Free's pledge.

From Nehanda Radio
Official defends Noah’s Ark gift to North Korea

Officials in Zimbabwe’s National Parks and Wildlife Department have moved to defend President Robert Mugabe from a directive to send a ‘Noah’s Ark’ collection of wild animals to North Korean dictator Kim Jong II as a special gift. Last week it was reported Mugabe ordered that two of every animal species in the Hwange National Park be sent to North Korea.

However Vitalis Chadenga, the Director General for National Parks told the weekly Zimbabwe Standard newspaper that Mugabe was not involved in the controversial export.

“I can tell you that the president or even the minister is not involved in this, there is nothing like a presidential decree here at parks. But I can confirm that we received an application from the Democratic Republic of North Korea and we are still processing the application,” he said on Friday.

Chadenga insisted exports of wild animals to any country were governed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) regulations.

“Of the animals which were requested only two elephants are endangered, the others like giraffes, zebras, warthogs are not endangered according to Cites,” he said. Chadenga said experts had been sent to the communist country to assess the new home for the animals and a report was being compiled.

Witnesses reported seeing capture and spotting teams, government vehicles towing cages and armed men at key watering holes with radios to call in the capture teams. The animals including two 18 month old baby elephants were being kept in quarantine in holding pens at Umtshibi camp in the park.

Elephant experts do not think the young animals will survive the trip separated from their mothers, and if they do survive they are likely to die in substandard North Korean zoos. Previously, two rhinos, a male known as Zimbo and a female called Zimba, given to the North Korean leader in the 1980s by Mugabe, died only a few months after relocation.

Sorry, I have to post this awesome Mugabe parody:

Thanks to Jen F. for bringing this story to my attention and to Jessi J. for the Bob Mugabe's farm videos

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