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. nikita

    can elephants be moved to safer areas? different countries, even other continents?

    March 15, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Soccer4life

      yes, they practice this quite abit but it's expensive and requires manpower, money and a helicopter in most cases. The problem is the poachers out number and have better weapons agianst the people trying to protect them:(

      March 15, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Soccer4life

    I truly look forward to end of mankind. The beautiful earth and all it's natural resources wildlife and the abundance of animals will once again thrive when we are no longer in the picture. How can any person whether it be for money or not find pleasure in the killing of gorgeous creatures like the elephant, tiger, rhino etc. As for the culture of mainland Asia, we seem to sanction various countries all over the world when we unite, why doesn't the world unite and sanction any country for the killing selling and purchasing of animals or animal products for ridiculous purposes such as medicinal, ashtrays, entertainment. etc. My anger has no end and what I would to anyone who I saw purposely injure of kill an animal has no limits! Hunters are cowards, I just hope certain animlas can last just a few more decades and they won't have to worry about humans any longer:)

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

      Perhaps we should try to stimulate the Asian market for human teeth, removed from shot poachers. Maybe we can harvest their organs too.
      All other things being equal, I would guess shooting these murderous criminals would be infinitely more satisfying than shooting those majestic, innocent creatures.

      Evolutionarily speaking, humans' strong suit is SUPPOSED to be intelligence that allow us to quickly adapt to – and thrive in -our environment. What's wrong with these people ? Are they convinced that their only means of survival is to permanently destroy entire species ?

      I say 'POACH the poachers, NOW~!!!'

      ...the miserable so & so's

      March 15, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • faithfulhuman

      Killing any creature for sport or that is endangered is illogical, cowardly and must stop. With that said, please don't abandon the human race. If all humans were gone what would be the point of this planet continuing with just animals? There would be no intelligent creature to appreciate the beauty, or write about it, or paint it. This planet and all the plants and animals on it need to be preserved for we humans. Would you prefer an alien species take over the planet for their benefit after we're gone? How about another Earth species evolving to take control? We humans, like all creatures, have a biological drive to survive, thrive, and control our environment as much as possible. For those of you like Soccer4life that would prefer that all humans simply died...please look in the mirror. Finally, don't worry, this planet and all physical matter in the universe are temporary. One day this entire planet and all the beautiful plants, animals and even humans will be gone. The only question is when and which ones are destroyed first:)

      March 15, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  3. IxNay

    This is profoundly painful to read. That picture makes me ill.

    March 15, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Drew

    I can literally visualize a group of elephants grazing, and then BOOM- a grenade goes off among them, dropping them on the spot with some injured beyond mobility. I can't stand how so many people have no regard for animals as Life – they just kill without emotion or care (seems very common among Africans and rural Asian people).

    March 15, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Sobo

    The Trump sons recently were in Africa contributing to this abomination while on an 'Exotic Safari Hunt.' Absolutely unconscionable that these clowns would partake in such barbaric acts!

    March 15, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anonymous

      I remember reading about that. The problem is the "hunter" mentality, and having too much money. People have this idea that they can kill whatever they want. I say, let the government start forming hunter parties to take down poachers. You see a poacher, take him out. There are people who justify poachers killing animals, because they need the money, yet they don't want to try to teach these idiots how to have an alternate way of making a living.

      March 15, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrey

      Dead poachers do not need money – problem solved!

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

    Hunting a species to extinction in illogical, but who ever said that the human race is logical?

    March 15, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Deborah Long

    Am I surprised? Look at who is buying.

    March 15, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  8. wm smale

    What the hell is wrong with human beings. If you want the ivory why in the hell do you have to destroy/kill/shoot the animal when there are alterntives. Killing the elephant takes away the source for ivory, stupid people. If you must have the ivory how about tranquilizing the animal, shoot it with your dart instead of your bullet, stupid stupid ignorant people.

    March 15, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  9. twinnie

    Ohmygawd, my heart is breaking in half. I love elephants and it makes me sick that they are slaughtered. Please don't print these photos anymore since we are helpless in saving these beautiful animals.

    March 15, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Big Tater

    Would any contributer here steal to feed their family? Bet so...That's all these poor africans are doing also. I am over there 3-4 times a year and let me tell you, these people have NOTHING!!! So back up your blabber with some cash and they'll tell the Chinese to bite it...Give them something to live on and case closed, ivory trade dries up.

    March 15, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • boarddog

      As much as I abhor this and the killing of any wild animal. Big Tater is right. I'd do whatever was necessary to keep my children from starving or to get them out of a h3ll hole like that.

      March 15, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • DAve

      Yeah, let's just hand out more money. When they finally kill of the last elephant, then what? Maybe they should find a sustainable source of income.

      March 15, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lola

      What hogwash! Organized groups that can afford high powered weapons, grenades, computers and cell phones are not "poor people" looking to feed their families. BTW poverty doesn't equal immoral.

      March 15, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • CA Liberal

      I don't believe there is any eatable meat on those rotting elephants.

      March 15, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  11. DAve

    The people that do this should be killed.

    March 15, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  12. reason225

    then theres D. Trumps sons who recently went hunting and posted pictures holding the tail of an elephant they slaughtered as a trophy. And theres the Go Daddy CEO who was killing these elephants. All justified by saying they gave it to the locals to eat.

    March 15, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  13. James Thomson

    Killing a single elephant is bad enough, but they have very highly developed social groups which can be shattered if older, wiser animals are killed. The young ones don't know how to survive without the elders. They don't know where to find food and water in times of drought without the experienced tuskers.

    And let's not forget the world-famous, best-sellling South African author, Wilbur Smith. He's been an elephant hunter his whole life and STILL attempts to justify it in terms that any mature, compassionate human being would find repellant.

    There is NO justification for this practice.

    March 15, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. GOD 2012 HE'LL DECIDE


    March 15, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  15. CA Liberal

    Humans are animals. We are the most dangerous deadly animals on earth. Top of the food chain. Too deadly for our own good. I would also like to point out that the guns and artillery these poachers use is mostly made in the USA. The #1 arms exporter in the world.

    March 15, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
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