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. Pat

    Can't these Africans grow drugs to make money? A kilo of Coke is worth more than a kilo or Ivory, and last time I check, it's just not the Chinese snorting powder.

    March 15, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Furious Styles

      You're right Pat, drive down that suburb a few miles from your local Super target. Snorting is prevalent all over. So what are YOU going to do about it?

      March 15, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Is that you, B.W.?

      March 15, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • M-Theory

      Huh... lots of "useful plants" that the Africans could take advantage of such as... Iboga, Yohimbe, Cannabis, hybrid Somniferum poppies and probably coca too. We'll take their drugs in lieu of killing elephants!

      March 15, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  2. veronica bassil

    so very sad. Beautiful gentle giants–I grieve for you and pray every day for you. I also do not buy any products made in China–and try to donate to causes to help when I can.

    March 15, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Theresa

      I agree with you and Adam. I at a loss for words how angry I am

      March 15, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  3. KristinaKaye

    It is so true that a picture is worth a thousand words.

    March 15, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. PS

    Sick people in China and Thailand! I thought ivory had been banned decades ago! Why not cut those tusks regularly? Puny disgusting humans!

    March 15, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Pan3

    Humans are a nasty virus on planet earth, and need population control.
    The only thing we protect is $.
    Blessings and strength to the elephants, sharks, whales, dolphins, polar bears, seals, tigers, rinos and all animals that humans abuse.

    March 15, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Janet Snyder

    This picture and the slaughter is totally heartbreaking. I agree with RedStapler about there being a wonderful place in heaven for all the totured and abused animals in this world. Don't these people, poachers and ivory buyers, have a heart at all?

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

      No. They don't. The punishment for this offense to the entire planet ought to be death.

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

      Yep, and there's a wonderful place down below for those who treat animals in this manner.... And we, as human beings, need to assist in sending them there!

      March 15, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  7. reason225

    "When they look back at us and they write down their history
    What will they say about our generation?
    We're the ones who knew everything and still we did nothing
    Harvested everything, planted nothing. "

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

      So true. We have never been a more prosperous, healthier world and we are able to communicate with each other yet instead of trying to make the world a better place, humans are becoming more destructive, greedy and cruel.

      March 15, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      – N e w M o d e l A r m y

      March 15, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • reason225

      banasy got it

      "I stand on these hills and I watch Her at night
      A thousands square miles, a million orange lights
      Wounded and scarred, She lies silent in pain
      R@ped and betrayed in the cold acid rain
      And I wish and I wish
      We could start over again
      Yes I wish and I wish
      We could win back Her love once again"

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

      What is sad is that a song like this exists in the first place.

      March 15, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • reason225

      also sad is that this song was written in the mid 80s and perhaps applies more today (over 20 years later) than it even did then.

      March 15, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Theresa

    This makes me totally ill–this picture. Shame on all people who buy Ivory which is causing the greed of these poachers to commit this horrific act. I agree with many of you, but us humans need to respect and value life.

    March 15, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Adam

    Do you remember the scene in the movie "The Matrix" where the agent tells one of the humans that we are like a virus infecting the planet consuming and destroying all life? This is absolutely pathetic and disheartening. We are capable of so much good , but most often just plain cruel. God forgive us.

    March 15, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  10. KristinaKaye

    If I were GOD, these people would be so damned!

    March 15, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Boater

    China... Why am I not surprised? Can we poach a few of them?

    March 15, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  12. reason225

    banasy got it

    I stand on these hills and I watch Her at night
    A thousands square miles, a million orange lights
    Wounded and scarred, She lies silent in pain
    R@ped and betrayed in the cold acid rain
    And I wish and I wish
    We could start over again
    Yes I wish and I wish
    We could win back Her love once again

    March 15, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  13. no nothing

    Is there any good news that comes from Africa? I don't think so. It is sad to see a continent with so many natural resources destroyed by greed and corruption.

    March 15, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mike

    This is all due to the monetary system. As long as people need money they will do whatever they can to make it. Poaching animals is the way that these people make their money. If I had to choose between myself and an elephant, I would obviously choose myself. There are so many resources out there in the world to help these unfortunate people that if we just decided to work together everyone could be living healthy prosperous lives. Money is the root of all evil, without it there is no rich/poor just people who have a responsibility to help the world.

    March 15, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  15. CenTexan©

    wow...this is truly heartbreaking. Those poor animals.

    March 15, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      I agree.

      March 15, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
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