No one wants to live in a cage, so why do we force animals to do exactly this? It’s a valid question, one few people have taken the time to consider. Hopefully, after viewing the video below, more people will consider boycotting zoos and amusement parks that keep wildlife in cages and tanks for human entertainment.

On the morning of August 8, five elephants were captured in Hwange National Park by officials at Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks). According to the Guardian, the elephants were destined to be transported to Chinese zoos, where they will live their lives in captivity. Though the captures are technically legal, they are usually kept as secret as possible.

Video screenshot.

The harrowing process of capturing the elephants can be viewed below. First, a herd is identified. Then, operatives in a helicopter target the youngest elephants and fire sedatives from a rifle. As soon as the elephant collapses, the helicopter “dive-bombs” to the vicinity so the rest of the herd are prevented from assisting the fallen youngster. As soon as the chaos quiets down, a ground-team quietly approaches the sedated elephants on foot. They then bundle them up and drag them onto trailers, where they are to be transported in small, confined cages. The footage was provided to the Guardian by an anonymous source. Reportedly, the mammals are destined for China.

Perhaps one of the most disturbing parts of the footage is when a small female elephant (approximately five-years-old) is kicked by officials who want her to back into the truck. She is still groggy from the sedative, but they are relentless in smacking her, twisting her trunk and pulling her tail to force her to move. 

In total, 14 elephants were captured during this period of time. According to the anonymous source, the group sought to take 30-40 elephants, but the helicopter crashed during one of the operations.

Watch the video below: 

As of October 3, the elephants were being held in an off-limits facility near the national park. Joyce Poole, an expert on elephant behavior and the co-director of the Kenya-based organization ElephantVoices, reviewed photographs of the mammals in holding pens. She said they were “bunching” — or huddling — together because they were scared.

Audrey Delsin, an elephant behavioral ecologist and executive director for Executive Director for Humane Society International Africa, added that many of the calves (which are between two and five years of age) were displaying visible signs of stress, otherwise known as temporal streaming. “Many of the gestures indicate apprehensive and displacement behaviour – trunk twisting, trunk curled under, face touching, foot swinging, head-shaking, ear-cocking, displacement feeding, amongst others,” said Delsin. 

To some people, the footage may seem like a natural repercussion of mankind being on “top” of the food chain. Animal rights activists, on the other hand, see it as bullying. Elephants are one of the most intelligent creatures on the planet. Studies have confirmed that elephants can identify languages, they can use tools, they comprehend human body language, they mourn their dead — even decades after loved ones have passed, and they have a great capacity for feeling empathy. Their only fault in this world is that they are too passive to fight back against the humans who abuse them for profit.

If the footage above enrages or upsets you, please share this article to raise awareness about the barbaric treatment many animals who end up in captivity endure. You can also boycott zoos and marine park establishments, such as SeaWorld, and donate to organizations that are invested in the conservation of animals — not exploitation.

h/t The Guardian