Elephants Slaughtered within African Park Boundaries

In Cameroon, Central Africa, elephants are in crisis.  Criminal gangs of poachers are reported to be increasingly targeting elephants within National Parks and other protected areas.  Dja National Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site and important haven for forest elephants, is just one of those vulnerable areas now being targeted.

Cameroon is a hub for illicit trade in wildlife, including ivory.  In October 2009, a massive single shipment of 500 elephant tusks was seized in Limbe, south-west Cameroon.  This came just weeks after another huge haul of ivory, weighing 1,250kg, was discovered in Douala. Seizures of this magnitude mean that ruthless, well-organised criminal syndicates are operating.  It is a multi-million dollar illegal industry.

This crisis is not only hitting Cameroon – poaching and illegal trade are striking a heavy blow to elephant populations across Africa.  In the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, disturbing reports from Virunga National Park indicate that in just one year more than 10% of its elephant population has been lost to gangs of ivory poachers.

It is not only the elephants that are suffering.  In the past decade a staggering 120 park rangers have also been killed guarding Virunga’s unique wildlife heritage.

The stark truth is that if elephants in Cameroon, Congo and elsewhere are to be adequately protected in the long-term, the international community must take sit up and take urgent and decisive action.  

Many fear that unless proposals by Tanzania and Zambia to trade in their ivory are rejected by governments at the CITES meeting in Doha this March, the traders and well-armed poaching gangs will become even more relentless in their pursuit of white gold.  One of Africa’s most precious natural treasures is being reduced to piano keys, carvings or chopsticks.  An unacceptable fate that cannot be allowed to continue unabated.  

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