An aerial view of slaughtered elephants in western Tanzania. Photo: The Telegraph

By  Aislinn Laing
19 July 2015

Seronera, Serengeti National Park (The Telegraph) – As Howard Frederick flew in a Cessna low over the scrubland of Tanzania’s Selous game reserve, it was the complete absence of elephants rather than the piles of scattered bones he saw that chilled him most.

The team conducting the aerial wildlife counts of Tanzania in 2013 and 2014 knew poaching was becoming a major problem, but nothing could have prepared them for what they uncovered.

Tanzania had lost two-thirds of its once mighty elephant population in just four years, as demand from China for their ivory tusks sent a highly-organised army of rifle and chainsaw-wielding criminals into its game reserves.

“I had never seen anything like that – there were carcasses everywhere, whole family groups on their sides, between three and seven animals, wiped out,” he told The Telegraph.

“Flying over these huge areas and even driving through, you used to see dozens of huge bull elephants.

“There was this incredible sense of life missing from that landscape that’s so defined by these creatures. It’s just hollow.”

Three hundred and fifty feet below them, in a safari vehicle, tour guide David Guthrie was doing his best to explain to his visitors why he was driving away from circling vultures – usually the sign for a seasoned big game watcher of a tourist-thrilling lion kill.

“In 17 years of working in the Selous I had seen two elephant carcasses but in 2010 they started appearing in numbers and by 2012 it was just awful,” he said.

“We were hearing shots regularly from the camps. We would have injured bull elephants walking in to try to find safety and dying under trees.

“The rangers were having to block access to areas – it was just carnage.” [more]

Tanzania's elephant catastrophe: 'We recalculated about 1,000 times because we didn't believe what we were seeing'

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