This week a shocking report was released showing that over 11,000 elephants died from poaching in Minkebe National Park in Northern Gabon since 2004. In just one decade, between 44% to 70% of all the elephants in the National Park and surrounding areas have been slaughter.
The report was released by the Gabonese National Parks Agency, WWF and Wildlife Conservation Society. The WWF newsletter reports:
"The situation is out of control. We are witnessing the systematic slaughter of the world’s largest land mammal,” said Bas Huijbregts, head of the Central African strand of WWF’s global campaign against illegal wildlife trade.
“Some reports lead the world to believe that the ivory war has moved from the Central Africa region to other parts of the continent. This is wrong. What has changed is that these criminals are now also attacking the better protected elephant herds in Eastern and Southern Africa.”
“But here in Central Africa, unnoticed to the world, elephants are losing this war at lightning speed.”
A regional crisis
Fiona Maisels, a conservation scientist at WCS who has been analyzing the survey data, said that the data pointed to a regional crisis.
“The Minkébé data are representative of trends across all remaining forest elephant strongholds in the region, not to speak of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is believed to hold 7,000 to 10,000 elephants, or less than ten per cent of its population twenty years ago,”
Gabon, Maisels explained, represents only about 13% of the forests of Central Africa but is home to over half of Africa’s forest elephants. The Minkébé National Park, in turn, is home to Gabon’s biggest elephant population and to probably the largest forest elephant population in Africa. “At least until these data came out,” she said.
Over in the Central African Republic (CAR) - which in the mid 1980’s held up to 80,000 elephants – poachers are taking advantage of the political instability to wipe out the country’s remaining elephant, which can now number in the thousands.
Speaking from Bayanga in southwest CAR, Guian Zokoe, who is in charge of the Dzanga-Sangha Protected Areas for the CAR Ministry of Water and Forests, says poachers have killed at least 17 elephants around the Ngotto forest in the south of the country in the past few days. Unconfirmed reports by villagers hint that some sixty elephants were also killed further north, near the town of Yaloke, he said, adding there were reports of killings throughout the country.
“The Central African Republic’s new government has to send its armed forces to stop these poachers before they hit its last elephant stronghold, Dzanga-Sangha, a recently declared World Heritage Site.”
“It is not just a question of protecting CAR’s natural resources, but of stopping these armed groups from waltzing around the country and terrorizing local populations wherever they go,” Zokoe added."