Fifty Arabic-speaking poachers shot and killed a total of 86 elephants — including 33 pregnant elephants and 15 juveniles — in Chad, Central Africa last week. This attack was reported to have taken place on either March 14 or 15, somewhere in southern Chad and near the Republic of Cameroon’s border.
Business Insider reported that the poachers on horseback used machine guns to kill the wild animals. The poachers then went on to hack out the elephants’ tusks and leave their dead bodies to rot where they lay.
The elephants were killed close to the Chad border with Cameroon and their ivory hacked out. It is the worst killing spree of elephants since early 2012 when poachers from Chad and Sudan killed as many as many as 650 elephants in a matter of weeks in Cameroon’s Bouba Ndjida National Park. “This is completely shocking,” said Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare in France and Francophone Africa (IFAW – http://www.ifaw.org). “Elephants in Central Africa continue to be under siege from unscrupulous poachers. The killing of 86 elephants, including pregnant cows, is evidence of the callous brutality demanded to feed the appetite of the ivory trade,” said Sissler-Bienvenu.
Information received by IFAW indicates that local communities close to Fianga city, in south-west Chad, where the elephants were killed have been asking their government for help in resolving local elephant conflict issues for at least two years.
No support has been provided, which may be why the elephant massacre was not reported for some days – the killing of the elephants by poachers offering some sort of relief to local farmers unable to protect their crops and livelihoods from being damaged by elephant herds.
This tragedy shows once again the existential threat faced by Central Africa’s elephants. In all likelihood this is the same group of Sudanese poachers who killed over 300 elephants in northern Cameroon in February 2012, forcing the country to mobilize its special forces to protect the region’s remaining elephants.
This illegal poaching activity is apparently being used to fund armed militia in the area. NBC News made note of the booming ivory trade in the region and the increase in elephant poaching:
From about 11,500 elephants illegally killed in 2010 in areas observed by the Monitoring Illegal Killing of Elephants programme, estimates for 2011 and 2012 rose to around 17,000.
The WWF listed some startling statistics about the African elephant population:
Numbering three to five million in the last century, African elephant populations were severely reduced to its current levels because of hunting. In the 1980s, an estimated 100,000 elephants were killed each year and up to 80% of herds were lost in some regions. In recent years, growing demand for ivory, particularly from Asia, has led to a surge in poaching. Populations of elephants—especially in southern and eastern Africa—that once showed promising signs of recovery could be at risk due to the recent surge in poaching for the illegal ivory trade. 2011 saw the highest volume of illegal ivory seized since global records began in 1989.