14 dead elephants have been found in Boubandjida National Park, Cameroon, just a week after the discovery of at least 200 elephants slaughtered by poachers for their tusks. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said shots were heard on Monday, February 20th in the Bouba Ndjida National Park in northern Cameroon, near the border with Chad and the 14 bodies were discovered on Tuesday February 21, 2012.
More carcasses are expected to be found in the coming weeks as gunshots continue to be heard. The area is still too dangerous to allow a survey of the massacre or rescue of the roaming orphaned elephant calves and wounded adults.
The continued slaughter is likely the work of Sudanese poachers who travel south through Chad on their way to Cameroon. In the past few years Chad’s elephant population has dropped from several thousand to just a few hundred forcing the heavily armed poachers further afield.
“These are well-armed, well-organised and nothing seems to be able to stop their reckless pursuit of ivory,” said Celine Sissler-Bienvenu, IFAW France’s Country Representative. “They are targeting one of the most vulnerable elephant populations in Africa. The ivory from these slaughtered elephants is flowing out of Africa at an uncontrollable rate. Elephants killed by poachers experience tremendous fear and suffering before dying. Often professional poachers –some of whom are former or current soldiers- are armed with military weapons such as AK47s. The AK-47 is designed to kill a person who weighs 70 – 80kgs. In order to kill an elephant weighing 5000kgs you have to use a lot of bullets and it can take a very long time for the animals to die.“ Reports of the massacre come from local contacts.
Sissler-Bienvenu said it was common for armed gangs of poachers to cross from Sudan during the dry season to kill elephants for their ivory. But this latest massacre is massive and has no comparison to those of the preceding years.
“The ivory is smuggled out of West and Central Africa for markets in Asia and Europe, and the money it raises funds arms purchases for use in regional conflicts, particularly ongoing unrest in Sudan and in the Central African Republic,” said Sissler-Bienvenu.
The embassies of the United State of America, European Union, United Kingdom and France have sounded alarm bells on the Boubandjida elephant killings and have called on the Cameroon authorities to take urgent action to stop the killing.
Cameroon shares a border with Chad which, in turn is bordered to the east and south by Sudan and the Central African Republic. It is uncertain how many elephants there are in Cameroon but, according to the Elephant Status Report of 2007 of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), possibly between 1,000 and 5,000 individuals remain.