14 dead elephants have been found in Boubandjida National Park, Cameroon, just a week after the grizzly discovery of at least 200 elephants slaughtered by poachers for their tusks. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW – www.ifaw.org) said shots were heard on Monday, February 20th in the Bouba Ndjida National Park in northern Cameroon, near the border with Chad and the 14 bodies were discovered yesterday.
More carcasses are expected to be found in the coming weeks as gunshots continue to be heard. The area is still too dangerous to allow a survey of the massacre or rescue of the roaming orphaned elephant calves and wounded adults.
The continued slaughter is likely the work of Sudanese poachers who travel south through Chad on their way to Cameroon. In the past few years Chad’s elephant population has dropped from several thousand to just a few hundred forcing the heavily armed poachers further afield.
“These are well-armed, well-organised and nothing seems to be able to stop their reckless pursuit of ivory,” said Celine Sissler-Bienvenu, IFAW France’s Country Representative. “They are targeting one of the most vulnerable elephant populations in Africa. The ivory from these slaughtered elephants is flowing out of Africa at an uncontrollable rate. Elephants killed by poachers experience tremendous fear and suffering before dying. Often professional poachers –some of whom are former or current soldiers- are armed with military weapons such as AK47s. The AK-47 is designed to kill a person who weighs 70 – 80kgs. In order to kill an elephant weighing 5000kgs you have to use a lot of bullets and it can take a very long time for the animals to die.“ Reports of the massacre come from local contacts.
In 2008 a legal ‘one-off’ sale of ivory from African stockpiles to China and Japan was allowed. The legal sale of ivory spurred demand and provided cover for ivory trafficking. The result was a spike in ivory seizures in 2009. Seizures of ivory have continued to increase since then with a total of 23 tonnes of ivory seized in 2011 – the highest amount since records began. This is just a small fraction of the total ivory being trafficked around the world.
Sissler-Bienvenu continued, “The only answer to ending the bloody onslaught against Cameroon’s elephants and those under threat elsewhere in Africa is to kill the demand for ivory. The best way to do that is a clear and total international ban on ivory sales.”
IFAW works in numerous fields to tackle ivory trafficking.
“Our first goal is to protect wild elephants so we have anti-poaching support for rangers and law enforcement – especially in West and Central African countries where elephants are most vulnerable,” said Jason Bell, Director of IFAW’s Elephant Programme. “We work with customs and enforcement officers to stop the traffickers as the ivory leaves Africa. We tackle the demand in China with public awareness campaigns to teach people that every piece of ivory comes from a dead elephant. We also work with CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) to try and stop any more of these one-off sales of ivory that serve only to spur demand and cause the deaths of elephants and the rangers who try to protect them.”
NOTE: The November 2008 sale of ivory referred to above was for a total of 108 tonnes of ivory from Botswana, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe. 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.
About IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare)
Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter