Zimbabwe’s wildlife agency said Thursday it has sold 35 elephants to China to ease overpopulation and raise funds for conservation, amid criticism from animal welfare activists that such sales are unethical. This once-prosperous country’s economy has fallen apart, and Zimbabwe’s government has said it needs to sell wildlife to support its people and conservation efforts. The government also has sought to sell its ivory stockpile for millions of dollars.

The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority did not say how much China paid for the 35 elephants but said it was “turning to friendly countries to extract value out of our wildlife.” This is the first time Zimbabwe has confirmed the Dec. 23 sale since activists announced a plane was carrying the animals to China. READ MORE