Bloody massacre kills 30 elephants in four days in Chad

Friday, April 15, 2011
Reims, France
Tragedy has struck in Chad where 30 elephants were found dead earlier this week and their tusks hacked out by ivory poachers. At the same time the attackers murdered a military official, who was apparently trying to protect the elephants.

The elephants were killed between last Saturday and Tuesday this week.

The killings bring to at least 150 the number of elephants killed for their ivory in the Logone Oriental region in the extreme south of the central African country in the past 12 months. It is estimated that Chad’s elephant population has decreased by about 40 per cent from 4,000 individuals in 2006 to around 2,500 in the most recent census in 2010, most commonly poached for their ivory.

Céline Sissler-Bienvenu of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW – www.ifaw.org) said well armed and organised gangs of poachers regularly cross Chad’s southern border (shared with Cameroon, Sudan and the Central African Republic) in search of elephant.

“The ivory is smuggled out of West Africa for markets in Asia and Europe, and oftentimes the money it brings funds arms purchases for use in regional conflicts, particularly the ongoing unrest in Darfur, Sudan and in the Central African Republic,” said Sissler-Bienvenu.

The battle against poaching is an ongoing challenge for Chad, one of the poorest and most corrupt countries in the world, with most civilians living in poverty.

Sissler-Bienvenu said the only answer to ending the bloody onslaught against Chad’s elephants and those under threat elsewhere in Africa, was to reduce demand for ivory especially in China and to ensure conservation officials in range states were provided with skills and the equipment necessary to counter professional gangs of poachers.

“Since 2009 IFAW has provided anti-poaching assessment, training and support to rangers and conservation officials in central African countries which face severe challenges in the fight to end the bloody and cruel illegal ivory trade,” said Sissler-Bienvenu.

“What these countries now need is the commitment of the international community to financially support these highly skilled and motivated trainees to be able to meet the task of protecting elephants.”

Given security concerns in Chad, IFAW has not been able to assist with anti-poaching training there to date.  As soon the situation presents, IFAW will liaise with the Chad Government with a view to helping them deal with the poaching problem.

Two weeks ago Thailand customs officials seized more than two tons of African elephant tusks in the largest haul of smuggled ivory in recent history – 247 tusks, worth an estimated US$3,5-million, hidden inside a consignment of frozen fish from Kenya. DNA analysis is currently underway to assess the real origin of the ivory.

NOTE: China and Japan bought 108 tonnes of ivory in a "one-off" sale in November 2008 from Botswana, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe. These legal sales provide the cover necessary for the illegal trade in ivory to flourish. IFAW runs anti-poaching projects to protect elephants where they live.

Besides policy work and supporting wildlife rangers and anti-poaching patrols in Kenya’s Tsavo National Parks, Malawi’s Liwonde National Park and elsewhere, IFAW has established a roving anti-poaching assessment and training team.

We focus on Central and West African countries with serious elephant poaching problems and a desire to solve them. Our expert anti-poaching assessment teams first undertake an anti-poaching needs assessment at a specific site to identify capacity constraints and equipment needs. Prior to sending in the team, IFAW negotiates an agreement with the government that outlines the terms of IFAW’s intervention and grants government permission.

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Céline Sissler-Bienvenu (IFAW France)
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