Poachers killed 25,000 elephants in Africa’s Minkebe National Park: survey

Poachers killed 25,000 elephants in Africa’s Minkébé National Park: survey

Poachers have killed as many as 25,000 forest elephants in Africa’s Minkebe National Park within a decade, according to a fresh survey by Duke University researchers.

Lead researcher John Poulson, an assistant professor of tropical ecology at Duke University, wrote in the newly published study that population of elephants in the national park, which has been a key sanctuary for the species, slipped 78 per cent from 2004 to 2014.

Expressing his concern, Poulson added, “With nearly half of Central Africa’s estimated 100,000 forest elephants thought to live in Gabon, the loss of 25,000 elephants from this key sanctuary is a considerable setback for the preservation of the species.”

In Africa, nearly 100 elephants are being killed by poachers each day, just for ivory/tusks. Thus, wildlife advocates say the most crucial step for saving elephants is to arrest the demand for ivory.

Elephants in Minkébé National Park are significantly smaller than the more common species of savannah elephant. Their birthrate is also much lower; thus it will take several decades for this species to recover from the havoc poachers have caused over the past decade.

The findings of the new study, published in the journal Current Biology, are a sobering reminder of the devastating impact of poaching on endangered wildlife.

As per UPI report, "Gabon's government has ramped up its offensive against poaching in recent years, granting forest elephants full protection under the law, establishing an anti-poaching police force and burning all confiscated ivory -- the first African nation to do so. Researchers used two elephant surveys conducted between 2004 and 2014, which relied on the tracking of dung left behind by the large mammals, to estimate the species' population decline within the park's boundaries."

"To save Central Africa's forest elephants, we need to create new multinational protected areas and coordinate international law enforcement to ensure the prosecution of foreign nationals who commit or encourage wildlife crimes in other countries," Poulsen said.

"The cool thing about this project is that we are going to have the most collared elephants throughout Central Africa. We are doing this in three different national parks," Poulsen told the Duke Chronicle.

Poulsen and his colleagues said that most poachers likely came from outside of Gabon, including the neighboring country of Cameroon.

The edge of Minkébé National Park lies just 3.8 miles from a major Cameroon road, which makes it easy for Camaroonese poachers to cross into Gabon, do their dirty work and bring their illegal haul back into Cameroon.