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6th March 2012
Cameroonian soldiers have been sent to secure Bouba Ndjida National Park after nearly 500 elephants were poached in six weeks
Over the last six weeks, well-organised poaching gangs have been running free in Cameroon's Bouba Ndjida National Park, killing 458 elephants for their ivory tusks. The groups are believed to be from Chad and Sudan.
"This most recent incident of poaching elephants is on a massive scale," said John Scanlon, head of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
"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," John added.
In response to the elephant killings, 100 Cameroonian soldiers were deployed on Thursday to secure the area.
"Any remaining elephant population remains at high risk until military forces are able to secure the area," said the WWF. "It is absolutely vital that the (military) exercise is not a publicity stunt – the poachers must be engaged, arrested and prosecuted to send out a strong message."
In 2011, an estimated 3,000 elephants were killed by poaching activities across the African continent, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
Ivory tusks are illegally exported to Asia where ivory is thought to cure various maladies. Havascope, the online database of black market activities, reports ivory being sold for $1,800 per kilo. The illicit funds are often then used to buy weapons, fuelling local conflict.
Bouba Ndjida National Park is home to the African bush elephant and the forest elephant, the former of which is considered vulnerable. Poaching for ivory and killing for bushmeat remains the number one threat to the world's biggest terrestrial animal.
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