African elephant slaughter highest in more than two decades, experts say
Elephants killed by poachers in Cameroon's Bouba N'Djida National Park, near the border with Chad, are shown on February 23.
March 15th, 2012
12:11 PM ET

African elephant slaughter highest in more than two decades, experts say

Despite recent attempts by soldiers in Cameroon to stop the mass slaughter of elephants, poachers are continuing to kill the animals in record numbers, the World Wildlife Fund said Thursday.

Tons of tusks are being moved on camels and horses from Africa mostly to buyers willing to pay high prices in China and Thailand, said Tom Milliken, the director of the wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic.

"Elephants represent an opportunity to gain money, and because there are ready buyers in most capital cities, the word is out there," Milliken said. "[There has been] an increased poaching assault like we haven't seen in two decades."

Poachers who recently killed at least 100 elephants in Cameroon's Bouba N'Djida National Park are reportedly from Chad and Sudan, the WWF said.

Unlike decades past when poachers across the continent ran down elephants using spears, the attackers are now highly organized and armed with sophisticated weapons. Many have used grenade launchers and high-powered rifles, allowing them to kill with greater ease and outgun police and military trying to stop them, said Richard Carroll, the WWF's Africa Program director. He has spent decades building an expertise in the Central African Republic.

He says he first fell in love with the region in the 1980s as a Peace Corps volunteer. Carroll said poachers obtained more automatic weapons during that era, when conflicts in Chad and Sudan began flaring. Many people involved with the ivory trade are forced to participate, oppressed over the years by warring sects, extreme poverty and fear of retribution if they don't do as they're told, he said.

There are several market-driven reasons for the increase in illegal ivory trade lately, experts with the WWF and Traffic said.

China has a legal ivory market that its government has said is highly controlled. Milliken, however, said China's system isn't strong enough.

Chinese customs officials generally target for inspection container shipments coming from Africa, but middlemen in the ivory trade are forging documents, making it appear that containers are from Malaysia or the Philippines to avoid inspection, he added. Ivory is also being hidden on trucks traveling across borders that carry legitimate goods like timber, he said.

Milliken said Chinese immigrants who have moved to Africa have "cornered the market" and are "bent" on making a quick buck by selling ivory.

Traffic is launching a campaign to help spread the word against poaching in African nations and in countries that are receiving ivory, Milliken said. Posters alerting people to the problem are being created in Chinese, English and various African languages.

But Milliken warns that the campaign can only go so far in reducing poaching. He wants the government of China to be more supportive, including sending law enforcement to Africa to help interrogate Chinese nationals arrested for the trade and to help with investigations by examining confiscated computers and cell phones that contain information in Chinese, he said.

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Filed under: Africa • wildlife
soundoff (158 Responses)
  1. Ghost Rider

    Human's driving other animal species to extinction. What else can we screw up?

    March 15, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Willem

    Very simple; but a bounty on ever poacher killed. Game over! Sorry libs, like elephants more.

    March 15, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • mitch

      You've got the right idea. Make it legal for me to do so and I will contribute a substantial sum to see poachers killed. Too many people on this planet and not enough elephants.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:09 am | Report abuse |
    • AS

      Willem, I'm as liberal as anyone, and I'd sign up to go hunt down poachers. There are about 500,000 elephants and 7,000,000,000 people on earth. Which one needs more help?

      March 16, 2012 at 5:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Sue

      I could not agree more!!! To kill these beautiful creatures is just plain wrong.

      March 17, 2012 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
  3. Attila, The Hun

    Time to eliminate the buyers. It would be good for the elephants and the rest of the world.

    March 15, 2012 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. bobcat2u

    All this carnage over the belief that their tusks hold some kind of magical healing powers. That is a big bunch of elephant hockey. That's all man knows how to do, kill kill kill.

    March 15, 2012 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Thelma Lou Brickmore

      I declare, where has my Herkie Werkie been?
      If you see him, do tell him hello for me, won't you?
      Thelma Lou has got to get some rest.

      March 15, 2012 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • bobcat2u

      @ Thelma Louise Brickmore

      I was just trying to get in touch with him, but this system is keeping me limited. As soon as I can get in touch with him, I'll tell him to get in touch.
      It sure is good to hear from you again though.

      March 15, 2012 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
  5. LVL

    Thailand is supposed to hold high regard for elephants, why is ivory so popular there still!
    We really have to work on china.......they have NO limits, were ruining our world,its disgusting.

    March 16, 2012 at 1:20 am | Report abuse | Reply
  6. NancyO

    why can't I e-mail this story CNN?

    March 16, 2012 at 4:21 am | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Tigresse

    Blame the poachers, blame the people buying it but most of all, blame the middlemen and women who take advantage of greed on the one hand and poverty on the other.

    March 16, 2012 at 6:25 am | Report abuse | Reply
  8. elgatoblanco

    I vote we equip elephants with body armor and miniguns. Let's see how the poachers like that.

    March 16, 2012 at 7:58 am | Report abuse | Reply
  9. B

    Grenade launchers? Really?!

    I would never advise anbody to upgrade their firepower beyond what's reasonable (for future reference, automatic weapons and explosives aren't what I'd consider "reasonable"), however this presents a far deeper quandary. How can someone protect something when the people on the other side of the equation can simply shoot through them or blow them up? If violence truly begets violence, is it possible to be more heavily armed without encouraging others simply rearm and escalate the issue further? Does being the one that has the bigger gun or the better shot really solve the problem?

    How can we as a species lash out so violently against something and justify it with something so petty as money? Is this a product of our innate corruption as a species, or have the technologies and ideas we've created (i.e. – guns, money) begun to corrupt us as a species? Our ideologies of violence and subjugation are affecting the world around us. How can we begin to confront such an issue without causing more death?

    March 16, 2012 at 10:56 am | Report abuse | Reply
  10. CandyBee

    If you have never seen elephants in the wild in Africa, you cannot really begin to imagine what this story means. They are extremely intelligent animals with strong family connections; they express anger, joy, curiosity, friendship, and other sruggles in common with mankind. When they are gone, they will not be replacable. The killing of these animals for the dentin is abominable. Ivory is not put to any use that helps the planet in anyway. Please help stop this slaughter! Otherwise the last of the elephants will die off in OUR lifetime. Watch the movie "Born to Be Wild" and you will see how similar they are to us.

    March 16, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. fernace

    Humans are pathetic creatures & please don't blame just the Chinese! We are all in this boat together & there are markets for this stuff sold around the world! While I did get a good laugh at Kats comments, it's not just Chinese men who use aphrodesics! Removal of tusks & nasal horns of rhinos poses alot of logistical questions, such as herding these immense animals, tranquilizing them, which is dangerous to both animal & human, & life w/out tusks (until they grow out)! I don't think the rhino regenerates their horns, so they are at a disadvantage when protecting young, for ex.! Many bloggers bring up tigers, sharks, whales & I'll throw in the wolf, to emphasize that it is not a natural process killing off these creatures, it's Us! Manmade extinction! Maybe we can use the $87 mil the gov't is putting up for cigarette education! Humans know the dangers of smoking, but these beautiful animals don't know the danger of minding their biz, going about their elephant lives & being killed for human greed!!

    March 16, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • maxine

      I'm with Willem on this :O(

      March 16, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
  12. mir

    And the Trump boys were lately in the news shooting wildlife, elephants too, I think. What losers, just like dad. Twerps with guns shooting helpless animals. What a shame, what mess.

    March 16, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. icare

    What an absolute disgrace! These poor animals!! The human race is so cruel and ignorant - ignorance and greed is what rules and ruins this world!!!! Got compassion????????????????

    March 17, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. David J

    Just Awful !!! Bounty on the poachers , dead or alive !!!

    September 5, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. SuuZQ

    C'mon CNN! This should be headliner on both World, Africa and Asia sub-sites. It's China! Chinese keep building ivory carving factories. Chinese are a plague on this earth. They consume, kill and destroy without remorse. Tigers, Bears, Leopards, cats, dogs,....anything on four legs is expendable to fuel their Traditional Chinese Medicine quackery.
    More public exposure around the world is desparately needed, and suspected poachers must be killed on-site.

    March 20, 2013 at 11:49 am | Report abuse | Reply
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