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. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    The problem is NOT effecting YOU. The U.S. has it's own poaching issues. This problem doesn't change your buying decisions of Chinese products at Wahmart

    March 15, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
  2. eamon

    Men kill elephants(A really serious crime; no excuses) and everybody gets hot and bothered.Soldiers kill human beings; soldiers are killed by their likes ;it is part of the ongoing war on terror,etc etc.

    March 15, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • ccccccc

      Elephants are smart animals. Some researchers think they have self awareness similar to that of humans. Shame on purchases of this stuff, such as China and people in Thailand. These are beatuiful creatures that deserve to live more than you deserve whatever you are using their tusks for.

      March 15, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Scottish Mama

    Open season on poachers?

    March 15, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • M Houston

      Should be open season (and Bounties) on Chinese heads...

      March 15, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Portland tony

    Before they are all gone, perhaps the Chinese (and other) governments could intervene in a meaningful way and stop this barbaric slaughter! Of course, once they have all been killed, the price of Ivory will sky rocket, but the poachers will starve! A little irony?

    March 15, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Portland tony

      You can't just blame the Chinese. We westerners started it with our handfuls of cash and glutinous demand for Ivory decorations and souvenirs. The Chinese government cannot police everyone of its citizens actions worldwide. They can get tough (really tough) with importers and smugglers though and stop the market for fresh ivory. Treat ivory smuggling the same as drug smuggling. That should do it!!

      March 15, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • infinitidoug

      The Chinese govt is heavily cracking down on trafficking and ownership of tusks, but unfortunately it's still very difficult to make a big impact. This requires international attention and a joint effort for a complete halt.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:16 am | Report abuse |
  5. Scottish Mama

    They are beautiful majestic creatures.

    March 15, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  6. High Hopes



    Don't they have enough to carve? Jade,
    Coral, Agate, Turquoise, Tiger Eye, Mother
    of Pearl, Onyx... God has provided in
    abundance, every color in the rainbow.
    And, still, they kill an animal who has a
    Greater purpose to make 'stone'.

    Boycott China!

    March 15, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      I have "hiiigh hopes" for you.

      March 15, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      lol. I just said boycott China on the Syrian thread.

      March 15, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©™

      An Affirmation for High Hopes:
      I am so grateful that I can agree with you partially here!
      However, I do not advocate a complete boycott of China: that Maoist people is materialistic enough to respond to a partial boycott. As soon as all humans refuse to buy ivory, the supply will vanish.

      March 15, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • High Hopes

      Sweet Mama:

      WE started it together and it was all about
      Syria... but its come to mean so much more!


      March 15, 2012 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |

    They won't be happy until they (man) kill everything living thing on the earth...FOOLS!!! We neet to protect the earth and the animals from these monsters that dont deserve to be here...

    March 15, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Sue

    Its a lost cause if you really think about it. Need, greed and plain ignorance (see eg. sharkfin) will rot out all these species in the long run. There really isn´t anything anyone can "seriously" do to stop this. Those that heriocally make an effort to do sth. about it are just plain too few to stop the inevitable.

    March 15, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • M Houston

      Its NOT a lost cause if the Chinese are made to pay dearly for it!

      March 15, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sue

      Any good ideas how that can be done? .... me neither.

      March 16, 2012 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  9. M Houston

    All those Chinese who have moved to Cameroon and Chad to facilitate this "trade" in ivory should be locked up or deported.
    Perhaps if the governments in those countries were to offer a greater bounty on the heads of Chinese "traders" those
    native poachers might find a more profitable target. the Chinese (and Thais) need to be made to pay for this slaughter.
    I think its time to start making necklaces out of Chinese teeth.
    Boycott all things Chinese!!!

    March 15, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sue

      Boycott Chinese? ... little to late for that isn´t it. And by the way, who made the Chinese goods so popular worldwide? ... Yep you guessed it: You and me buddy. Guilty as charged.

      March 15, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      @lSue we still have elephants, if we wait to boycott, we will not have these lovely characters.(they are so playful and loving to each other)

      March 15, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • M Houston

      "who made the Chinese goods so popular worldwide?" Walmart, Steve Jobs, the telecommunication industries,
      the shoe companies, and every greedy corporation in the world who wants cheap slave labor so that YOU
      will get your precious supply of cheap "consumer" products.

      I have not deliberately bought ANYTHING that says "made in China" for over 10 years. It sometimes is inconvenient, but it IS possible (And I've been called crazy by friends and family for it). Unrealistic as it sounds, it IS possible.

      March 15, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sue

      With all due respect and not trying to be a troll, but aren´t you writing these comments from your chinese made computer? Yes I know, we can´t help it, most computer elements of all computer brands are chinese, and we all need computers. I see your point. But Walmart exists because the consumer exists. At the end we are all guilty. Sadly enough I live from chinese made products, but heck, I need to eat too 🙂 ...

      March 16, 2012 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
  10. Bill

    Problem is an ages old talks! If there were no market for this stuff it would not happen...I gues they learn quickly and well from greedy folks on this side of the globe. These beautiful animals are a true treasure but they can't let that stand in the way of food or money...what else is new.

    March 15, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  11. CPW

    Either way is wrong BUT isnt there a way to get the Ivory w/o killing the elephants? Or are the Poachers taking more than that? I say we send Ted Nugent over there to end this insanity!

    March 15, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  12. M Houston

    If ever anyone needed justification for being "anti Chinese" this is it. Can the Chinese really sink any lower than this?

    March 15, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Zoosphere

    We need to learn to live with this big creatures. I think that is one of the tasks Africa has received on this earth. I wish Africa will have the Day it protects elephants on it own. We should have sufficiently enough technology to produce artificial ivory for our inexpensive use.

    March 15, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Truth

    What the hell! Why no sanctions are imposed against China and Thailand? Even last remaining Tigers are poached because Chinese think they can make Viagra out of Tiger bones. Crazy people!

    March 15, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  15. toots

    Outrageous and inexcusable! Who speaks for the poor animals? Live evil.

    March 15, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
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