CITES, the international regulator of the trade in endangered species, has voted for a near-total ban on sending African elephants captured in the wild to zoos.
The move came on Tuesday when of the delegates present 87 voted in favour, 29 voted against, and 25 abstained. The ban gained the two thirds majority it needed to pass.
The vote was met with firm resistance from Zimbabwe in particular which, along with Botswana, is the country providing the most elephants to zoos outside the country.
The European Union was rumoured to be considering blocking the ban using its 28 votes.This was met with outcry from high-profile activists and conservation organisations arguing the trade in elephants was cruel and threatened elephants’ survival.
Ultimately, the EU came on board with the ban but did so by submitting its own amended text. The EU’s amendments adds a loophole saying that elephants should remain in their “natural and historical range in Africa, except in exceptional circumstances where… it is considered that a transfer to ex-situ locations will provide demonstrable in-situ conservation benefits for African elephants”.
In such cases, a decision can only be made after consulting CITES and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) elephant specialist group.