Zimbabwe earned $2.7 million for exporting 97 elephants to China and Dubai over a six year period, Tourism Minister Priscah Mupfumira has said, state-linked Chronicle newspaper reports.

She said the animals exported were sub-adults, meaning they were between two and three years old.

“Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority exported a total of 97 sub-adult elephants to China and Dubai between 2012 and 1 January 2018. A total of 93 elephants were exported to China and four were exported to Dubai.”

The elephants were sold for prices ranging from $13,500 to $41,500 each, the paper reports.

Ms Mupfumira said the profit would go towards the conservation of elephants.

“Zimbabwe’s carrying capacity is 55,000 elephants but now we have 85,000,” she added.

Ms Mupfumira said they could not cull due to restrictions imposed by Cites, an organisation that governs the trade in endangered species. The issue was recently discussed at the Elephant Summit in Kasane, Botswana.

Along with Namibia and South Africa, Zimbabwe is pushing for the lifting of elephant hunting and are backing a request for Cites to allow ivory stockpile sales to fund elephant conservation.

“We are sitting on ivory worth $300 million which could be sold to fund our conservation programmes as well as benefit communities living in wildlife areas,” Ms Mupfumira said

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