In just six weeks, poachers have killed 200 elephants in a national park in Cameroon.
Poachers, believed to be armed groups from Chad and Sudan, have been blamed for an unprecedented spate of elephant deaths in Bouba Ndjida national park in Cameroon. The demand for ivory in Asia is thought to be the reason for more than 200 elephants being killed within the park in a six-week period.
As a result of this outbreak of poaching by heavily armed gangs, the elephant population within Bouba Ndjida national park in the far north of Cameroon has now been severely depleted.
“We are talking about a very serious case of trans-frontier poaching, involving well-armed poachers with modern weapons from Sudan and Chad who are decimating this wildlife species to make quick money from the international ivory trade,” says Gambo Haman, governor of Cameroon’s northern region.
The poachers, some of whom were on horseback, have been reported to have operated with the help of the local population, who come into conflict with elephants as a result of crop damage. The locals were given free elephant meat in exchange for their help.
According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), cross-border poaching during the dry season is common, but the group states that the scale of the killings so far this year has been shocking and unexpected, “This latest massacre is massive and has no comparison to those of the preceding years.”
TRAFFIC, a conservation group that monitors trends in wildlife trade, cites a record number of large-scale ivory seizures in 2011, and warns that demand for tusks for use in jewellery and ornaments in Asia is leading to a surge in elephant poaching in Africa. The group states that the sudden increase in the illegal ivory trade in Africa is a direct consequence of China’s investment drive into the continent.
Tip of the iceberg
Fatalities as a result of poaching and the illegal ivory trade are not limited to elephants; six Chadian soldiers were killed as they tried to arrest a group of 50 armed poachers fleeing with ivory.
Cameroon has dispatched a rapid-reaction force to the area where the elephant killings occurred, but there are unfortunately not enough troops to cover the whole of the remote park.
“In January we counted 146 [elephant] carcasses and since the beginning of this month we’ve had close to 60 already. This may only be a tip of the iceberg as some may have been killed in parts of the park that we cannot access,” adds Mr Haman.
IFAW says that it is unclear how many elephants now remain in Cameroon. In 2007, an estimate put the figure at between 1,000 and 5,000 individuals.
Read more on this story at The Guardian – Poachers slaughter 200 elephants in Cameroon national park in six weeks.
Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Species Text Author