28 Elephants Killed; AK-47 Wielding Poachers Raid Park In Cameroon

By iScienceTimes Staff on March 13, 2013 2:33 PM EDT

Elephants
28 elephants were killed in Cameroon last month. (Photo: REUTERS)

Poachers armed with automatic rifles are being blamed for the 28 elephants killed at a pair of national parks in Cameroon over the past several weeks. According to the World Wildlife Fund, poachers have killed more than 60 percent of the forest elephant population in the last decade, putting the species on the fast track to extinction.

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"Elephants in these two protected areas in the Congo Basin are facing a threat to their existence," Zacharie Nzooh, WWF Cameroon representative told the Christian Science Monitor. "The poachers used automatic weapons, such as AK-47s, reflecting the violent character of elephant poaching."

The 28 elephants killed were discovered between Feb 10 and March 1 at Nki and Lobeke National Parks in Cameroon. Each of the 28 elephants killed were stripped of their tusks, a sure sign that poachers were the culprits behind the slaughter. The 28 elephants killed were forest elephants, a smaller breed than the larger African elephants most people imagine when they picture an elephant. Forest elephant tusks are smaller and straighter, but their ivory is no less valuable. The WWF cites the black market value of ivory at several hundred dollars a pound. Most of the black market trade exists in Asia where the ivory from the 28 elephants killed will be carved into jewelry and ornaments.

The government of Cameroon has attempted to thwart the poachers in recent months by stepping up nighttime patrols. In December, they deployed military helicopters and 600 soldiers equipped with night vision gear to try to protect the park and its wildlife.

A September article in the New York Times revealed that ivory poaching has become a popular method of raising money among paramilitary groups.

"Some of Africa's most notorious armed groups, including the Lord's Resistance Army, the Shabab and Darfur's janjaweed, are hunting down elephants and using the tusks to buy weapons and sustain their mayhem. Organized crime syndicates are linking up with them to move the ivory around the world, exploiting turbulent states, porous borders and corrupt officials from sub-Saharan Africa to China," Jeffrey Gettleman wrote in the article.

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