Rampant elephant poaching leaves a bloody stain in the Congo Basin

Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Brussels, Belgium
Elephant poaching continues to spiral out of control in Chad. Twenty elephants have been killed in just over the last two weeks for their ivory and there are concerns that more carcasses may yet be found. All have been killed outside of protected areas, where they are vulnerable targets. The reports come from Stéphanie Vergniault, President of SOS Elephants of Chad.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW – www.ifaw.org) condemns violence against humans and animals and calls on the European Union to take action to support African countries like Chad which are asking for help to save these endangered animals.

Five of the elephants were killed in the area of Mayo Lemié (near Nanguigoto) and the remaining 15 were killed in the Logone area of southern Chad.

The lucrative illegal trade in ivory continues to kill thousands of elephants in Africa every year.

“The size of the haul indicates that a well-organised team of poachers was involved likely divided into teams of shooters and carriers. They may have used horses, camels or cars to transport the ivory out of Chad,” said Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, an IFAW expert on elephant poaching. “But it is difficult to know for certain. In the past, ivory poaching was committed by non-Chadians and has fuelled conflict in Darfur in the Sudan and the Central African Republic. Chadians have also disguised themselves in foreign clothing to throw suspicion onto others.”

In the last year, approximately 250 elephants were killed in Chad. It is thought that most of the poachers were from Sudan. The ivory sales are used to finance arms purchases and other illicit enterprises but large quantities of ivory are also illegally shipped to Asia to satisfy the growing demand for that product.

The elephant population in Chad is under severe pressure. In 2010 there were only 2,500 elephants in Chad left, a 37.5 per cent drop in just four years from the 4,000 elephants counted in 2006.

“Elephants are in crisis,” continued Sissler-Bienvenu. “The ivory trade continues to flourish and seizures of illegal ivory are scratching the surface of this multi-million euro business.”

Although it is difficult to price ivory exactly recent reports indicate that it can be sold in China for as much as US$1,700/kg[i][1]. Assuming a conservative average tusk weight of 10kg per tusk, or 20kg of ivory per elephant, the recent killings represent as much as US$680,000 worth of ivory by the time the ivory reaches the end buyer.

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 all of the cover necessary for the illegal trade in ivory to flourish. IFAW runs anti-poaching projects to protect elephants where they live.

That’s why – 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 team first undertakes 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.

 

[i][1] The Ivory Trail. Wasser, Clark, Laurie. Scientific American. July 2009.

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