By Ian Johnston
26 April 2013
(NBC News) – An "extensive" slaughter of elephants appears to be underway in the Central African Republic with reports of their meat being sold openly in markets, according to activists.
Rebel fighters pushed into Bangui, the capital of the impoverished but mineral-rich country, in March and ousted President Francois Bozize.
In a joint statement issued Thursday, the World Wildlife Fund and the World Conservation Society said poachers were exploiting the chaotic situation to kill elephants and called for “immediate action” to stop them.
The statement said that “the exact number of elephants slaughtered is not known, however initial reports indicate it may be extensive.”
“WWF has confirmed information that forest elephants are being poached near the Dzanga-Sangha protected areas, a World Heritage Site,” the statement said.
“Elephant meat is reportedly being openly sold in local markets and available in nearby villages. The security situation is preventing park staff from searching the dense forest for elephant carcasses,” it added.
The statement said that up to 30,000 elephants are killed in Africa each year for their ivory tusks, which are in demand in Asia.
WWF and WCS called on the Central African Republic and its neighbors to increase security in the area to protect the elephants and local people.
Jim Leape, WWF’s director general, said “heroic rangers” in the CAR were “standing firm in the face of immense danger,” but added that they needed more help.
“The elephant poaching crisis – driven by insatiable ivory demand – is so severe that no area is safe,” he said.
Staff from WWF and WCS have been forced to evacuate because of the ongoing violence. WWF said its offices in Dzanga-Sangha had been looted three times in the past month. [more]
25 April 2013 (WCS) – WWF and WCS have received alarming reports from their field operations that elephants are being slaughtered in the violence-ridden Central African Republic (CAR), where new powers in place struggle to gain control over the situation. The conservation organizations are issuing today a joint call for immediate action.
Due to the violence and chaos in the area, the exact number of elephants slaughtered is not known, however initial reports indicate it may be extensive. WWF has confirmed information that forest elephants are being poached near the Dzanga-Sangha protected areas, a World Heritage Site. Elephant meat is reportedly being openly sold in local markets and available in nearby villages. The security situation is preventing park staff from searching the dense forest for elephant carcasses.
The two organizations, WWF and WCS that have worked in CAR since the 1980s, are calling on the Central African Republic and its neighbors to immediately increase security in the region to protect the area's people and elephants. Governments are meeting next week at an extraordinary meeting to discuss ways to stop the poaching that has plagued the region. Up to 30,000 elephants are killed in Africa each year for their ivory tusks, which are in demand in Asia.
The following statements have been issued by WWF and WCS:
Jim Leape, WWF Director General said:
“The elephant poaching crisis – driven by insatiable ivory demand – is so severe that no area is safe, not even the World Heritage Site Dzanga-Sangha where both WWF and WCS have now worked for the conservation of elephants for decades. Heroic rangers are standing firm in the face of immense danger, but they alone cannot safeguard the special species and places the world treasures. When meeting next week, Central African governments must urgently join forces against this criminal activity that is also threatening the stability and economic development of their countries. I encourage them in the strongest terms to take a stand against wildlife crime and together declare that poaching and illicit trafficking will not be tolerated.”
Cristián Samper, WCS President and CEO said:
“Together, WCS and WWF, are calling on the Central African Republic government to immediately increase security in the region to protect these elephants from poachers and are asking other regional governments to provide assistance to stop the killing. Our staffs have been forced to evacuate in the chaos. I recently visited CAR and saw first-hand that without a full-time conservation presence in the region, these elephants are in jeopardy from poachers. WCS and our partners will continue to work tirelessly to protect elephants across their range.”
WWF has worked in Dzanga-Sangha for 30 years and supports protected area management, gorilla research, law enforcement and tourism development. WCS has been in the area for more than 20 years, in charge of monitoring and research of the elephants of Dzanga Bai, a forest clearing containing a mineral-rich watering hole. In addition, WCS works immediately across the border in the Republic of Congo to protect the same population of elephants where the government is working to ensure their additional security on that side of the border.