Friday, June 13, 2014
Hannibal's most deadly weapon near extinction
Once the weapon of mass destruction for Hannibal, African elephants could become extinct. Despite some success in curbing their poaching, more are dying than being born in Africa.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) said more than 20,000 were killed last year, far above the birth rate.
"Africa's elephants continue to face an immediate threat to their survival from high levels of poaching for their ivory," said Cites Secretary-General John E Scanlon in Geneva.
"Today we are confronting a situation of industrial-scale poaching and smuggling, the involvement of organized transnational criminal organizations, the involvement of rebel militia,” he said.
The possibility of extinction makes the tusks of the animals even more valuable.
Experts say the poachers are armed like drug smugglers, and sometimes use helicopters and night goggles. Some rebel groups, such as the Lord’s Resistance Army, use poaching to pay for their weapons and food. Poachers from rebel groups in south Sudan and members of the Congolese army also are involved.
"The situation is extremely serious," Garamba park manger Jean-Marc Froment said. "The park is under attack on all fronts." A 2012 census found just 2,000 elephants in Garamba Park, down from 20,000 in the 1960s. The park is in the north of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire.
CITES issued a report Friday saying the numbers killed had declined the last two years, from a high of 25,000, but if the killing wasn’t controlled the animals would become extinct.
The worst poaching is in central Africa, said Tom de Meulenaer, CITES senior scientific officer. "If this same trend continues in the next 10 years we may lose practically all of the elephants in central Africa."
More aggressive enforcement of laws banning sale of ivory from elephants in China has helped, and Beijing has sought to satisfy the market by turning to mammoth ivory found in Russia.