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Ivory poaching in Africa reaches highest level in a decade

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 27th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

African conservationists reported the highest level of elephant poaching in more than a decade. Ivory seizures, procured from countless shot and killed elephants were at their highest recorded levels since 1989, which was the year that international trade in elephant ivory was banned.
 

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - It's estimated that in 2011 that more than 20,000 elephants were slaughtered for an estimated 24,000 kilograms of ivory. Wildlife officials also noted a drastic increase in large-scale seizures since 2009. Organized crime can be blamed for the increase of large-scale shipments.
 
With the market value of ivory reaching $900 per kilogram in China, the financial stakes are high, and it appears sponsors are adopting bold new tactics to satisfy demand.
 
"One criminal syndicate will gather a poaching gang together, and that poaching gang will be assigned instructions to kill a specific herd of elephants or to provide a specific amount of ivory," William Clark of Interpol's Environmental Crime program says.

"We're finding that, consistently, in all of the large seizures, the DNA says these animals were brothers and sisters, uncles, aunts, parents and children - very closely related. This is not opportunistically-poached ivory where some poachers killed two elephants up in the north of the country and four more in the south and some middleman collected it all together. Oh no. One specific population is targeted and exterminated."
 
The war is on to protect the noble pachyderms of Africa. Adding to the crisis is the fact that in such poaching hotspots such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Chad, gangs usually outnumber and outgun often under-resourced park rangers.
 
According to Clark, organized crime is hiring gangs of up to 18 people. Many sport military-type fatigues and adopt military-style techniques such as security patrols to guard their camps.
 
The poachers are becoming more sophisticated, as the wider variety of purloined ivory begins to turn up. A recent raid conducted as part of Interpol's Operation Worthy - an anti-poaching and trafficking initiative that involves judiciary, customs, police, wildlife and even revenue services from 14 African nations - nabbed more than 30 military firearms, including AK47's, G3's and even M16's.
 
"We ended up with 214 arrests, about two tons of elephant ivory, [and] a big variety of other wildlife contraband," Clark says. "But we are just starting to see them, in the past year or so, come in such increasing numbers [that] they're starting to alarm people.
 
In Kenya, at least 15 wildlife staff has been killed this year. Five rangers in Chad were executed during morning prayers in September. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, mercenary and rebel groups like the Lord's Resistance Army are turning to ivory for income.
 
In Cameroon, where gangs massacred more than 300 elephants in Bouba N'Djida National Park, Special Forces have been deployed to keep Sudanese poachers from re-entering its reserves.

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