Cape Town: At least 200 elephants were slaughtered for their tusks by poachers in Cameroon since mid-January, an NGO said.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said a gang of Sudanese poachers killed the elephants in Bouba Ndjida National Park in northern Cameroon, near the Chad border, in central Africa. Cameroon shares a border with Chad, which in turn is bordered to the east and south by Sudan and the Central African Republic. Armed insurgents seeking elephants frequently cross the porous borders on poaching raids in Cameroon and Chad.
So far, 100 carcasses have been found. The ongoing shooting is making it impossible to conduct further detailed assessment of the situation, IFAW said.
Many orphaned elephant calves have been spotted abandoned following the shootings and concerns are high they may soon die of hunger and thirst.
Their deaths will only compound the impact of the poaching spree on the Cameroon`s threatened elephant populations, it said in a statement Thursday.
IFAW`s Celine Sissler-Bienvenu said it was common for armed gangs of poachers to cross from Sudan during the dry season to kill elephants for their ivory. But this latest massacre is massive and has no comparison to those of the preceding years.
"The ivory is smuggled out of West and Central Africa for markets in Asia and Europe, and the money it raises funds arms purchases for use in regional conflicts, particularly ongoing unrest in Sudan and in the Central African Republic," said Sissler-Bienvenu.
It is uncertain how many elephants there are in Cameroon but, according to the Elephant Status Report of 2007 of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), possibly between 1,000 and 5,000 individuals remain.
The embassies of the US, Britain and France have sounded alarm bells on the Bouba Ndjida elephant killings and have called on the Cameroon authorities to take urgent action to stop the killing.