China-bound elephant calves returned to Zimbabwe's wildlife areas
FILE - A herd of elephants walk backdropped by Mt. Kilimanjaro in Amboseli game park in Kenya, May 21, 2006. (AP / Karel Prinsloo)
Published Monday, January 21, 2013 10:33AM EST
HARARE, Zimbabwe -- An animal welfare group says five baby elephants held in captivity in western Zimbabwe for shipment to zoos in China have been returned to the wild.
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said Monday the calves were taken to a state-run national park over the weekend where they will undergo "rehabilitation and integration" with existing elephant herds. The babies' real mothers could not be traced.
State parks and wildlife officials agreed on their release, the group said, and "the capture of wild animals for zoos or similar habitats, irrespective of location" is expected to be stopped.
Four baby elephants were flown to China in November. Conservationists said the calves suffered extreme stress separated from family groups on the 36-hour journey to China and one died later.