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. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©™

    Very few photographs in the news have affected me the way this one of three dead elephants did.

    March 15, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Danny Sausagee

    Chinese imbeciles.

    March 15, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rachel Carmody

      Couldn't agree more.

      March 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Elliot

    The Chinese won't be happy until the have ruined all the ecosystems across the planet, not just their own.

    March 15, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • inkpen

      Not like us westerners, right buddy???

      March 15, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • M Houston

      @inkpen
      Very much WORSE than "us Westerners"...b u u d d y.

      March 15, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  4. JC

    What will they do when there is no more elephants or any other animals that they are after for there so called medicine. I find it so sad. Its going to get worst before it get better.

    March 15, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  5. BenBigwanger

    Until we remove the demand there will always be people willing to kill to fill that demand. What a horrible horrible thing to do...to kill one of creations grandest animals, for greed. China hah, would have never seen that coming (he said sarcastically).

    March 15, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Chipperkeet

    What the hell is wrong with this world?

    March 15, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Linda

    Humans are the scourge of the earth!!! We are the caretakers and protectors of the earth and its inhabinents and all we do is destroy!!

    March 15, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jason Glugla

    It is also those in the United States who wait in line for their latest Made in China products that are financing the slaughter of the Elephants, Sharks, Tigers and all of the animals used in Chinese so called medicine.

    March 15, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elliot

      Yep, only the USA buys stuff from China...no where else in the world buys Chinese products.

      March 15, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Lola

    There are over a billion Chinese so why not line up these immigrants and shoot them with high powered rifles? There were Chinese immigrants in Africa who were caught killing and eating endangered animals on another occasion. They have happily wiped out different types of Rhinos and the remaining have low numbers. Unless the African countries come down hard, because the Chinese Government looks the other way, their resources will be wiped out and sold to the highest bidder by these immigrants.

    March 15, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Lola, seriously? Are you for real?

      March 15, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lola

      Of course I am. Some countries will shoot poachers on sight. The people like these immigrants who get caught trafficking however get nothing but a slap on the hand. They should also be shot.

      March 15, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Just trying to figure out how you would cull the poachers from the other Chinese immigrants...

      March 15, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lola

      What are you talking about? What do other Chinese immigrants have to do with the ones they are catching in this trade??? Read the article better.

      March 15, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Oh, you are talking about the ones who are *caught*.

      March 15, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      I am slow on the uptake today, Lola.
      I need more Kona, apparently.
      Sorry.

      March 15, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lola

      Why would they want help to investigate computers and cell phones in Chinese if people weren't caught? THOSE people should be shot dead just like the poachers are. There is no difference between the two. How is this confusing?

      March 15, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Perhaps I didn't make myself clear when I said I was slow on the uptake, and aplogized.
      I understand.

      March 15, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  10. real_personn

    Maybe CNN could include the slaughter of rhinos also meeting their early demise for their horns, bears and tigers to meet the demand for the same group of consumers.

    March 15, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  11. RedStapler

    This made me sick to my stomach. What is wrong with people. I hope there is wonderful place in heaven for animals to make up for all the inhumane treatment this world has imposed on them.

    March 15, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Diggit1234

      A nice thought, but 'animal heaven'?? Religion is half the reason for the world's problems. Best to leave it out when discussing real issues and matters that need to be handled, on Earth, NOW! The uneducated and greedy are destroying this world. And we are next.

      March 15, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  12. mj

    Looks like the same one donald trumps kids killed. Does it have its tail cut off?

    March 15, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  13. dan

    it sickens me ,they beautiful creatures that do no one harm
    it makes me realize humans will be next and will deserve it

    March 15, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  14. greg

    Barbaric. The killers. The users.

    March 15, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  15. banasy©

    His justification was "hey, the villagers were glad for the food."
    Daddy's spin doctors in action.

    March 15, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
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