Officials said 28 elephants were killed in Cameroon in recent weeks as the rising demand for ivory caused hunters to seek out endangered species on protected land.
The elephants were killed over the the past few weeks on the Nki and Lobeke national parks. Poachers have sought out the animals in response to the high demand for ivory from Asia where it sells for hundreds of dollars per kilogram. The forest elephant is known for its straighter tusks than its African savannah cousin, which is a larger species.
With the 28 elephants killed, officials say the population of the endangered forest elephants has been reduced by 62 percent in the last decade.
“Elephants in these two protected areas in the Congo Basin are facing a threat to their existence,” Zacharie Nzooh, World Wildlife Federation Cameroon representative in the East Region, told Reuters. He added that the 2,000 or so remaining forest elephants could be gone in a decade if action isn’t taken.
But that won’t be easy. The poachers are well armed, more so than the outmatched park wardens.
“The poachers used automatic weapons, such as AK-47s, reflecting the violent character of elephant poaching,”Nzooh told Reuters.
The World Wildlife Federation found the carcasses of 23 elephants killed between February 10 and March 1 in Nki national park, and another five more were discovered in Lobeke national park to the east. All of the 28 elephants killed had been stripped of their trunks.
A new study released by the Cites Bangkok summit showed that forest elephants are in a battle for survival. Researchers at the summit talked about how to stop the poaching but cutting off the market for ivory trading.
There will be dire consequences if the poaching isn’t stopped, experts say.
“The analysis confirms what conservationists have feared: the rapid trend towards extinction – potentially within the next decade, of the forest elephant,” said Samantha Strindberg, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) scientist.
Officials in Cameroon are responding to the 28 elephants killed and taking measures to combat poaching. They have deployed military helicopters and 600 soldiers equipped with night vision gear to protect the national parks.