Poachers have slaughtered 28 endangered forest elephants for their ivory in Cameroon in recent weeks according to a report from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Sadly, the population of Africa’s forest elephants has been reduced by poachers by an estimated 62 percent over the last decade due to the demand for ivory in Asia, leaving conservationists to believe this species is on track for extinction and that the estimated 2,000 left could disappear within a decade, reports Reuters.
WWF found the bodies stripped of their tusks in Nki and Lobeke national parks, where some of the last of these elephants live.
“Elephants in these two protected areas in the Congo Basin are facing a threat to their existence,” said Zacharie Nzooh, WWF Cameroon representative in the East Region.
“The poachers used automatic weapons, such as AK-47s, reflecting the violent character of elephant poaching,” he said, adding that park wardens lacked good weapons.
“The surge in the killing of elephants in Africa and the illegal taking of other listed species globally threatens not only wildlife populations but the livelihoods of millions who depend on tourism for a living and the lives of those wardens and wildlife staff who are attempting to stem the illegal tide,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UN Environment Program Executive Director.
The ivory trade was banned in 1989, but despite efforts to protect them, elephants continue to die at a heartbreaking rate to feed the demand for ivory. An an estimated 17,000 elephants were illegally killed in 2011 alone.
It’s now believed that the global illegal ivory trade has more than doubled since 2007 and is now three times larger than it was in 1998, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. According to Reuters, one kilogram, or roughly 2 pounds, still sells for hundreds of dollars on the black market.
“Organized criminal networks are cashing in on the elephant poaching crisis, trafficking ivory in unprecedented volumes and operating with relative impunity and with little fear of prosecution,” said Tom Milliken, TRAFFIC’s ivory trade expert.
More progress was made last week at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Bangkok where it was decided to crack down on illegal trade by requiring the worst offending countries – China, Kenya, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Uganda, Tanzania and Viet Nam – to submit plans to deal with the problem in two months and show progress at the next CITES meeting.
“After years of inaction, governments today put those countries failing to regulate the ivory trade on watch, a move that will help stem the unfettered slaughter of thousands of African elephants,” Carlos Drews, WWF’s head of delegation at CITES, said in a statement. “The gains made to better protect species here in Bangkok are a major milestone.”
“But the fight to stop wildlife crime is not over,” he added. “These countries will now be held accountable to these pledges, and must step up the urgency in dealing with the global poaching crisis that is ravaging our wildlife.”
Photo credit: Thinkstock