This week, the tragedy of seeing Swaziland's elephants imprisoned inside a zoo in the USA was celebrated. Last year, despite conservationists and animal activists causing an uproar over the removal of these animals from Africa to #zoos in the west, Swaziland went ahead and shipped 18 of the animals to America.
The translocation of the elephants has been hailed as a tremendous success as they have put on weight and are in good condition. They also know how to raise their various body parts for inspection and for shots after many months of practice and get to have a nice reward - a bit like a child getting a candy at the doctor, or a dog getting a biscuit for doing a behavioral trick. The elephants also get to decide if they want to stay inside their prison, or go outside to their limited-space bathing and viewing area.
Watch Swaziland's captive elephants in their USA Zoo
The Zoo officials and the public that see and handle these elephants in captivity are not the root cause of what many African people feel is offensive and tragic. The animals were shipped to the USA by the Swaziland government. This followed hot on the heels of the Zimbabwe capture and shipment of elephants from the Hwange Game Reserve to China and a wave of disgust swept across the opponents of zoos as it was believed that Africa was now 'selling off their wildlife for cash.' The feeling was that when all else had been plundered, the wildlife could be sold off. Nevertheless, some people did feel saddened that the need arose for shipping them off in the first place. As pointed out in an interview with Room for Rhinos on YouTube - in Africa elephants are not endangered, but are 'problem animals.'
Watch the argument for sending the elephants to the USA zoos
The viewpoint of the American zoos is that these animals were 'saved from the drought.' The opposing viewpoint is that Swaziland should have managed their national herd better, and why did they need to go across the ocean, when there were opportunities to relocate them within their natural habitat in Africa? Some would argue that if they had stayed in Africa, they may have been hunted and killed in what is termed 'sustainable management of natural resources.' Watching these animals in the zoo and seeing where they should be living out their lives, one wonders really which would have been the better option for these elephants that are now technically serving life in prison for no crime other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time in a world which has failed to fully protect our natural heritage.
#wildlife management in Africa is an explosive subject and proponents and opponents of the different ways they should be managed lead to heated and abusive debate. Nevertheless, no matter which way you look at it - these elephants represent a tragedy. They should be living in the wilderness. Watch the video below that shows elephants in a natural habitat and decide for yourself just how tragic the long and sad story is for those splendid and clever animals now living behind bars in the USA.#Swaziland elephants