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An African elephant in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. © AFP
An African elephant in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. © AFP

Sourced from third-party site: Telegraph UK, written by Aislinn Laing

Twenty four young elephants sold by Zimbabwe to a Chinese zoo at the beginning of this month are malnourished and peppered with injuries, according to secret pictures taken of them in their new captivity by conservationists.

The elephants, who are all about five years old, were part of a 27-strong group of elephants captured last year in Hwange National Park.

They were sold for an estimated £25,000 each to China’s Chimelong Safari Park, a vast Chinese corporate leisure centre in the southern city of Guangzhou by Zimbabwe’s wildlife authorities who said they needed to raise money for conservation efforts at home.

The animals were shipped to China via Dubai on 5 July amid outcry from conservation groups who said it was cruel to subject the majestic animals to separation from their family groups and cross-continental travel. They also questioned the record of 300-acre Chimelong Safari Park, which has been accused of keeping animals in poor conditions and treating them badly.

Now pictures have emerged purportedly taken by a local wildlife charity, which suggests the animals are in poor health.

© Chunmei Hu/Nature University
© Chunmei Hu/Nature University

The photographs, originally published by National Geographic, show the animals penned in small concrete and metal enclosures, eating straw. Their flanks appear thin, and circular wounds can be seen on their skin.

© Chunmei Hu/Nature University
© Chunmei Hu/Nature University

Chunmei Hu, a project manager with Nature University, a Beijing-based environmental NGO, said she took the photographs on Monday at the zoo’s quarantine facility. “I have seen at least 23 elephants,” she told the website. “Most of the elephants have been hurt.”

© Chunmei Hu/Nature University
© Chunmei Hu/Nature University

Joyce Poole, a co-founder of ElephantVoices, a Kenya-based research and advocacy organisation, said the elephants appeared to have lacklustre skin tone, a mottled complexion and abrasions.

She said some of the injuries visible on their skin could have been inflicted by people or caused by infighting on the long journey, or been made by poker-like “billhooks” used by zoo staff for transport and training animals.

“These calves look really horrible,” she told National Geographic. “They are covered with so many smaller and larger wounds that no matter what they were caused by, the owners and/or handlers must be held accountable.”

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