The cellphone footage reveals rows of steel cells stretching along a concrete floor. Behind each set of bars, a juvenile African elephant, their tusks just barely showing. One elephant presses its head into the corner of its prison-like confinement.
Zimbabwean officials legally captured these highly intelligent and social animals in Hwange National Park. Now, they will be broken and put on display for tourists in China.
By the end of this month, as more and more experts weigh in on the deep trauma suffered by captured elephants, a treaty governing international animal trade will halt the export of live elephants from Zimbabwe and other countries in Southern Africa.
Activists say they fear that the opaque trade could now move underground.
Stuck in a holding pen
A vast park on Zimbabwe’s westernmost frontier, Hwange is one of the continent’s best spots for seeing giant elephant herds.