Poachers are having a devasting effect on the population of elephants in Congo.
One of Africa’s oldest national parks is under attack “from all fronts,” said its director on Friday after 68 elephants were slaughtered over the past two months by poachers wielding chain saws and grenades and shooting them from helicopters.
Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo is under constant assault by renegade Congolese soldiers, gunmen from South Sudan and others. And this is just a slice of the carnage: international wildlife regulators say 20 000 elephants were killed just in Africa in 2013.
One group is shooting the elephants with rifles from a helicopter and then taking off their tusks with a chain saw. They are removing the elephants’ brains and genitals as well.
Conservationists say a thriving ivory market in Asia is helping fuel the worst poaching epidemic of African elephants in decades.
Even baby elephants without tusks are being killed.
The alleged poachers seem to have no morals or remorse even for people. Official say the poachers include renegade elements of the Congolese army, gunmen from South Sudan, and members of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a militant rebel group whose fugitive leader Joseph Kony is an alleged war criminal. These groups wear military uniforms and carry hand grenades. The LRA in particular is known for kidnapping children to use them as soldiers and have killed 15 park employees and family members. The large concentration of elephants in Garamba make it a hotbed of activity, the massacre is hard to stop.
Satao, one of the great tusked elephants, whose ivory reaches the ground and who was tracked for his protection was recently killed in Kenya by poachers using poisoned arrows.
What can be done against such monsters?
Ivory is often used for religious items prompting a coalition of religious officials to call for a halt to the slaughter:
China has started to destroy ivory caches in public to make people aware of the need to stop the trade but does that just make it more valuable? 470,000 – 690,000 individuals are estimated to live in Africa. Some populations are more safe than others but for how long?