Fighting Ivory Insurgents in Central Africa

This month, reports from Southern Chad indicate that 89 elephants were gunned down in a single night by a group of well-armed poachers, sparking fears that the 300 Sudanese horse-mounted rebels who annihilated Cameroon’s most significant savannah elephant population in Bouba Ndjida National Park in 2012 may have returned to the region in search of more ivory.

In reaction, representatives from more than eight Central African states agreed at a meeting in Cameroon to mobilize 1,000 soldiers and law enforcement officials as part of an emergency anti-poaching plan (called PEXULAB) to immediately start joint military operations to protect the region’s last remaining savannah elephants. The decline of elephant populations in this region is soul destroying: the Central African Republic for example had in the region of 80,000 elephants thirty years ago compared to a few hundred today.

It is now for the various African governments to commit resources to this plan, backed up by international partners where possible. There is also hope that Secretary Clinton’s November 2012 statement of support related to the global illegal wildlife trade may also result in backing for these efforts.

Apart from military operations against the poachers, diplomatic missions will also be launched to Sudan in an effort to gain political support for action in the poachers’ country of origin.

It goes without saying of course that the world needs to say no to all ivory trade. Nobody needs ivory carvings or trinkets, but elephants certainly need their tusks. Ivory’s real value cannot be measured in U$ per kilo, but rather in terms of the increasingly shattered wildlife wealth of elephant range countries and in the blood of wildlife rangers who face the worst challenges on the front-line.

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