Poachers Poised for More Attacks
Based on sightings from the air and ground, it appears that the Sudanese poachers have broken into small bands of 10 to 15 men and are widely dispersed. However, the specific movements and exact locations of the poachers in and around Chad and Cameroon are unconfirmed, and the accuracy of reports is unclear. Some reports place a gang or gangs of poachers in or near Cameroon’s Bouba Ndjida National Park, which was the site of the slaughter of hundreds of elephants in early 2012.
“We’re watching developments closely and are working with our partners in southern Chad, including African Parks Network and others,” Ruggiero says. “The Chadian authorities on the ground are engaged, and we have assurances that our Cameroonian partners are fully informed and will react appropriately.”
Already, Chadian troops are pursuing the poachers and have engaged them. On Monday, President of SOS Elephants Stephanie Vergniault said that “the Chadian Président has deployed a lot of troops to catch the poachers and is very determined to get them before they leave the Chadian territory.” She noted that earlier in the day there had been a violent exchange of gunfire between some poachers and the regular army in Loumobogo (close to the Central African Republic). She also reported that authorities seized 30 tusks and that “Chad has declared a total war to the poachers.”
Chadian anti-poaching troops. Photo taken in December 2012 or January 2013. Photo courtesy of SOS Elephants of Chad.
Lack of financing and need for high-level commitment and coordination for wildlife crime law enforcement were top issues at the CITES COP 16 meeting. But those concerns voiced by the delegates did nothing to help the pregnant elephants massacred days ago in southwestern Chad.
They, and tens of thousands of other elephants, are the victims of a perfect storm of high ivory prices driven by soaring Chinese demand, low risk of ivory traffickers getting caught, low penalties for those who do, and a lack of priority at either local levels or higher political ones to get serious about elephant poaching.
Encouragingly, Chad appears to be actively pursuing the poachers. But the situation in Cameroon and the Central African Republic is less clear, and the bottom line is that the Sudanese poachers are still hunting.
Elephants near the SOS Elephants camp. Photo courtesy of SOS Elephants of Chad.
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