China and the global wildlife watchdog are facing legal issues regarding the regular trade in endangered wildlife for zoos in the country.
Lawyers have filed a complaint with the trade regulator, accusing the country of “openly” violating international law in buying elephants and chimpanzees.
There is evidence that some chimpanzees were severely pregnant when they were transported across continents.
The lawyers are demanding that China’s business cease immediately and that the watchdog be investigated.
The illegal wildlife trade is not only cruel and endangered species of endangered species, it also creates risky conditions for zoonotic pathogens to emerge, experts say.
Scientists strongly suspect that Covid-19 originated from dangerous Chinese street markets, where numerous species unnaturally mixed and slaughtered.
The lawyers say that when China bought elephants from neighboring Laos and imported chimpanzees from South Africa, it ignored many aspects of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), which is designed to protect species that are critically endangered.
Their complaint is based on evidence from wildlife researcher Karl Ammann, who discovered suspicions of illegal trade in animals classified by Cites as the most highly protected and should not be bought or sold for a profit.
An investigation last year found that monkeys were stolen from the wild and taken to circuses, theme parks, laboratories, zoos and “safari parks” in China along with cheetahs, tigers, rhinos, lions and meerkats.
According to the report, at least 5,035 live wild animals were exported to China between 2016 and 2019 – an “extremely conservative” estimate – including chimpanzees and a “bewildering number” of giraffes.
The researchers alleged that some traders had links with international organized crime syndicates and that the Cites system was riddled with fake permits.
Cites, a global agreement between 183 nations, classifies both chimpanzees and Asiatic elephants as some of the most endangered species in the world, meaning they are prohibited from trading under its rules.
But lawyers say that despite the ban, significant sums of money are being handed out for animals and significant amounts are being generated by crowds in the Chinese zoos where the animals are being sent.
The animal welfare law firm Advocates for Animals, which filed the complaint, is demanding that all trafficking be suspended while the watchdog investigates.
The lawyers accuse Cites of not clarifying whether zoos are considered “business”.
The complaint specifically focuses on the export of 18 chimpanzees from South Africa to China in 2019 and the regular export of Asian elephants from Laos to China since 2015 “to illustrate a pattern of violations”.
“It was suspected that, contrary to the requirement to minimize the risk of injury, damage to health or cruel treatment during transport (which is required for all listed animals), the animals were transported, for example, by overloading trucks and heavy transport of pregnant animals”, warns her letter to Cites.
Critics of Chinese zoos and amusement parks say painful training methods are used to teach elephants to “perform tricks”.
The independent previously revealed Mr Ammann’s discovery that agents in Laos trade young elephants across the border with China and fly them to the Middle East for up to £ 230,000 each.
In some cases, officials are bribed to allow “paperwork” and elephants have been sold in violation of the law in Laos.
Elephant biologist Audrey Delsink of Humane Society International / Africa previously said that elephants sent to China are exposed to a life of deprivation, suffering and psychological stress, “as far away as possible from the life they would have led in the wild” .
Pictures even suggest that elephants were mistreated and suffered from an illness National Geographic.
Alice Collinson, animal lawyer attorney, said, “Our extensive legal analysis of the evidence shows that countries like China are openly disregarding Cites’ rules and that Cites governing bodies do not enforce these violations.
“It is increasingly worrying that companies are hiding behind the idea that zoos are conservation and therefore avoiding stricter controls, even though many make huge profits from these imports.
“This undermines Cites’ intent to strictly regulate the trade in protected endangered wildlife.”
Filmmaker Ammann said, “Most transactions are very commercial and involve agents and brokers driving up prices and taking advantage of the poor quality of government in many exporting and importing countries.”
He and his lawyers argue that traders are trying to exploit a loophole by claiming the elephants were bred in captivity, so they have less protection and can be bought and sold – but he says the animals don’t meet that definition.
Quotes told The independent It examined the Advocates for Animals complaint but was unable to comment on an ongoing matter. However, a spokesperson added: “With regard to the status of zoos, the parties and interest groups are currently discussing emission purpose codes as issued under the letter“ Z ”for the export of listed species in the context of zoos.
“Furthermore, the purpose of the agreement is neither to prohibit nor promote trade, but to ensure that existing trade is legal, sustainable and traceable. While we respect the views of groups who might oppose this, this is not the policy of the 183 parties. “
We work with the conservation organization Space for Giants to protect wild animals that are at risk from poachers due to the conservation finance crisis caused by Covid-19. Help is urgently needed to assist rangers, local communities and law enforcement personnel in preventing wildlife crime. Donate to stop the illegal wildlife trade Here.