Poachers using military-style tactics in massacre for ivory

In Cameroon, hundreds of elephants have been butchered in the last four months.

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Photo courtesy of Earth-Touch/flickr.

DOUALA, Cameroon (7 March, 2012)_128 elephants have been systematically slaughtered in Cameroon’s Bouba N’djida National Park over the past few weeks, with poachers coming from as far as Sudan armed with state-of-the-art military equipment and smuggling the ivory out of the country by helicopter.

National park management is being reinforced to cope with the onslaught, said an official statement.

“The fact that these attacks have taken the full posture of a military invasion calls for an adequate riposte,” wrote Cameroon Tribune columnist Nkendem Forbinake.

“If Cameroon is to ensure the survival of its elephants, then there is need to give more tonic to the fight as well as revise current anti-poaching strategies.”

While the protection of biodiversity was not the main focus of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership meeting of the Conference of Central African Ministers in Charge of Forests (COMIFAC) in Douala, Cameroon, speaker after speaker raised the issue of uncontrolled poaching as an example of the lack of governance in the region that affects everything from illegal logging to land grabbing.

COMIFAC was launched in 2002 at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg to support and contribute to the implementation of a commitment by the ten member governments to promote good forest governance, improving living standards and protect biodiversity.

Forbinake said at least part of the slaughter might have been averted had the local population told local officials about the invasions. But it was understandable that this failed to occur, he said, since communities don’t receive any help or compensation when elephants regularly stray out of the park and trample their crops.

A recent workshop held by the Center for International Forestry Research conservation experts highlighted the need for formalised insurance and compensation mechanisms to mitigate the incidences and impacts of conflicts between human and wildlife. According to the World Wildlife Fund, human-wildlife conflict is one of the main threats to the continued survival of many species, with elephants being the biggest crop raiding culprits.

In his closing remarks to the meeting, US Ambassador to Cameroon, Robert Jackson cited poaching at the top of a list of challenges facing the Congo Basin Forest Partnership. He said regional security forces had been trained and equipped to deal with international poachers.

As many as 300 elephants have been slain for their ivory across northern Cameroon since November, 2011. The demand for illegal ivory could wipe out Africa’s elephants by 2025, according to the International Fund for Wildlife Welfare (IFWW).

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