Eleven hyenas destined for a safari park in China have been seized by Zimbabwean law enforcement officials at Harare International Airport. According to News24, animal inspectors intercepted the shipment of hyenas taken from Hwange National Park as they were about to be exported to a Chinese park. Officials from the Zimbabwe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals stopped the shipment of animals from leaving aboard an Air Zimbabwe plane flying to Johannesburg.
From Johannesburg, the 11 hyenas were meant to be placed aboard a connecting flight to the Middle East, from where they’d be flown to China, where they’d be delivered to Hangzhou Safari Park in Hangzhou City in East China.
The hyena shipment is believed to be part of a controversial deal that Zimbabwe signed with China requiring the country to export several of its wildlife species to the Chinese mainland in exchange for money. Conservationists and animal rights activists have criticized the deal, describing it as “exploitative.”
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Some of the animals may have reportedly injured themselves while being transported inside special containers on a flatbed truck from Hwange National Park to Harare on Thursday. The extent of the injuries sustained is unclear. According to reports, one of the hyenas escaped captivity, although it’s not clear whether this happened in Hwange or in Harare.
The hyenas have been returned to Hwange National Park, however they remain in a temporary enclosure as they await release back into the wild.
Poaching of Africa’s Wildlife
In 2015, a shipment of 24 young elephants from Hwange National Park that were meant to be sent to a safari park in southern China caused an international uproar, with the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force claiming that dozens of baby elephants had been “sentenced to a life of inhumane treatment.”
Zimbabwean authorities reportedly raised an estimated $1 million from the sale of the 24 elephants to China, with each one selling for about $32,000.
Zimbabwe’s Environment Minister Oppah Muchinguri argues that the sale of animals is part of a scheme to raise funds for conservation, adding that the funds help take care of the country’s national parks which have been ravaged by drought and systematic poaching.
In January, Muchinguri announced that even more wild animals including hyenas, elephants, lions, and baboons would be sold to China “without hesitation” adding that, “we are not going to apologize to anyone.”