Fondation Franz Weber

Media release: EU Commission silent on live elephant exports from Namibia

On 11 August 2021, Namibia reported that it had found undisclosed buyers for 57 live African elephants, 42 of which are destined for export, outside Africa. Fondation Franz Weber (FFW) wrote to the EU Commission to intervene in early September, after it asked the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the Swiss authorities and Namibia itself to cancel these sales.

On 3 December 2020, Namibia’s Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) published a tender for the sale of 170 wild elephants from four commercial breeding areas in the north of the country. On 11 August 2021, the same ministry confirmed that it had found buyers for 57 undisclosed wild elephants, 42 of which are destined for export.

Based on a field investigation in the spring of 2021, FFW immediately responded calling on Namibia to abandon the sales, offering its assistance in finding alternatives to the planned exports to address human-elephant conflict, the apparent rationale for the sales. FFW also simultaneously wrote to the CITES Secretariat and the Swiss authorities (Switzerland is the CITES depositary state) to remind Namibia of its international obligations, which prohibit the export of live elephants outside their natural habitat. Since then, there has been radio silence.

However, on the ground, we know that Namibia has begun to capture entire family groups of elephants and there are strong indications that the potential buyers are likely to be captivity sites outside Africa. Capturing wild elephants and placing them in zoos or similar facilities is highly detrimental to both wild elephant populations and the individuals, condemned to what is invariably a life of misery in captivity. At the most recent Animals Committee meeting, Burkina Faso and Niger (both elephant range states), submitted an in depth analysis of the detrimental impacts ex situ trade has had on live elephant populations.  In Namibia, the planned captures may mean the disappearance of the rare desert-adapted elephants.

FFW appealed to the EU and with the UK-based David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF), asked senior EU Commissioners and MEPs in a letter dated 6 September 2021, to urge Namibia to halt the capture and transfers. “The EU is committed in its Biodiversity Strategy to protecting the world’s wildlife. It is a powerful negotiating partner in all international negotiations and the EU has a role to play in preventing wild African elephants from being taken from their family groups and sent to zoos around the world”, explains FFW President Vera Weber.

Today, in particular, we call on Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President of the EU Commission, the champion of the 2030 EU’s Biodiversity Strategy and representative of the most influential partner to CITES, to intervene in this most urgent of cases and urge the Namibian environment Minister Shifeta Pohamba to cancel this cruel and unnecessary transport of wild elephants.

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