Zimbabwe's government says it must export elephants to raise funds for wildlife management.

National Parks Service conservation director Geoffreys Matipano said about 60 elephants will be sold for between $40,000 and $60,000 each to China, France and the United Arab Emirates.

Conservationists say they are concerned by how the animals were rounded up, with calves separated from their mothers. They also questioned the conditions in which the animals are kept in Zimbabwe and abroad.

The Zimbabwean government has blamed poor profits in the tourism industry on an American ban on sport-hunted elephant trophies.

French representatives of CITES, the international body monitoring endangered species, and the Chinese embassy in Zimbabwe said they were unaware of the sale. CITES in the UAE says the country is expecting a family of seven elephants.