Voicing grave concern over reports of mass elephant killings in northern Cameroon, the head of the United Nations-backed convention on endangered species called for effective action to manage and conserve these animals and for the control of trade in elephant ivory.
It is reported that close to 450 elephants in Bouba Ndjida National Park in northern Cameroon were recently killed, according to a news release issued by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
“This most recent incident of poaching elephants is on a massive scale but it reflects a new trend we are detecting across many range States, where well-armed poachers with sophisticated weapons decimate elephant populations, often with impunity,” said the Secretary-General of the Convention, John E. Scanlon.
Governments of the region are being offered support to find, and bring to justice, those responsible for the killings and to locate and seize the poached ivory. Potential transit and final destination countries have also been urged to remain extremely vigilant and to cooperate.
The CITES programme for Monitoring Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) has revealed increasing levels of poaching in 2011, noted Mr. Scanlon.
“This spike in elephant poaching is of grave concern not only to Cameroon, a member State to CITES, but to all 38 range States of the African elephant, as well as the secretariat,” he said.
It is reported that elephants have been slaughtered in recent weeks by groups from Chad and Sudan, according to CITES. The poached ivory is believed to be exchanged against money, weapons and ammunition to support conflicts in neighbouring countries.
The CITES secretariat is contacting officials in Cameroon, Chad, the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Sudan, offering support to help galvanize enforcement efforts and trans-boundary anti-poaching mechanisms in Africa.
In addition, Mr. Scanlon has designated Ben Janse Van Rensburg, CITES Chief Enforcement Support, as the CITES secretariat’s focal point for coordinating support in responding to major elephant poaching incidents.
The focal point is engaging with the countries concerned and with partners in the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), namely Interpol, the World Customs Organization, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and the World Bank, to share intelligence that could be used to help bring the perpetrators to justice, to locate and confiscate the poached ivory, and to help prevent future incidents.
The CITES secretariat, which is administered by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), stressed that a national, regional and international approach to manage and conserve elephants is essential, and that the most recent mass killing demonstrates the need for effectively implementing the action plan for the control of trade in elephant ivory that was created under the auspices of the Convention.