Elephant Poaching War Heats Up In Central Africa

The elephant poaching war in Central Africa just got more firepower, thanks to a new agreement between the Central African countries who plan a joint military operation to send 1,000 men to battle a professional team of 300 poachers believed to be from Sudan. The Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) announced the decision a few days ago after an emergency anti-poaching conference held in Yaoundé, Cameroon.

The three ECCAS nations are Chad, Cameroon, and the Central African Republic.

The $2.3 million dollar plan, which will include high-tech air cover and satellite phones to coordinate real-time military operations against the poachers, was formed in the wake of the horrific slaughter of 86 elephants in Chad earlier in March. It was the last straw in a series of gruesome, well-coordinated elephant slaughters allegedly carried out by a team that was also responsible for killing over 300 elephants in a single attack last year in Cameroon.

Both attacks, and many others, have taken place in national parks.

CNN reported this morning that another attack, resulting in the death of at least 40 elephants in two Cameroon national parks, was discovered yesterday.

A Sudan Tribune report said that the Chad attack involved 50 Arabic-speaking poachers who travel on horseback, making it easy for them to maneuver in the remote terrain.

The threat to the elephants is very real. The World Wildlife Fund said that the population of the African elephant has collapsed from as many as five million in 1900. Political realities make it difficult to get a firm grasp on the actual number remaining today, but the International Union for the Conservation of Nature currently ranks the species as “vulnerable.”

However, there is more than fighting elephant poachers going on in Central Africa this week. South Africa was jolted on Monday, when news services reported that 13 South African soldiers had been killed in a firefight in the Central African Republic. Some observers have questioned what happened and what the South African forces were doing there in the first place, since the mission in CAR appeared to have no immediately obvious strategic purpose.

There may be more than just an elephant poaching war heating up in Central Africa.

[African elephant photo courtesy Schuyler Shepherd and Wikipedia Commons]