Aug. 27 (UPI) -- Zoos will no longer be able to import wild-caught African elephants into the United States, China or anywhere else, under a resolution approved Tuesday by more than two dozen nations.
The proposal was introduced at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild Fauna and Flora, the global regulator of wildlife trade, this month. Intense public lobbying led nations to pass the resolution by a vote of 87-29. Twenty-five nations abstained from voting. Celebrities such as Pamela Anderson, Brigitte Bardot and Ricky Gervais lobbied in behalf of the ban.
The European Union tweaked the language of the proposal to allow limited exceptions.
The measure bars the export of wild-caught elephants from Zimbabwe and Botswana, the only two African nations where it's legal to capture the large animals in their wild habitat.
"People no longer want to see African elephants locked up alone and depressed in zoos," Foundation Franz Weber President Vera Weber told the Times Live. "They want elephants to be protected in their natural environment. Time have changed and zoos will have to adapt. The EU's momentous change of heart means that more than 30 baby elephants in captivity in Zimbabwe cannot now be exported to China. For that we are immensely grateful."
"This is a momentous CITES decision for Africa's elephants and despite compromised language being introduced by the EU, we are relieved by its passing," Audrey Delsink, wildlife director at Humane Society International, said. "While it's disappointing that it is not an outright ban on trade in live elephants, the new language adds vital independent oversight and scrutiny."
The EU exception said elephants already living in an EU country can be shipped to another member nation.
Environmental groups applauded the move, but African officials said the ban will cut off a vital part of their economy.