11,000 elephants killed in one national park area in under a decade. That might be the most depressing number you'll read all day.
Reuters reports that Gabon and its forests are home to about half of the world's remaining forest elephants, which number roughly 100,000. As economies in Asia continue to strengthen, more people can afford the much-prized ivory which means demand has exploded -- and so has the level of poaching, not only in Gabon but across Africa.
Poachers are often armed with large-caliber rifles and chainsaws to remove tusks, the statement issued by the presidency said. They have secret camps in the rainforest, evading small deployments of park guards and leaving rotting elephant carcasses in their wake. A park official said most of the poachers were believed to be from neighboring Cameroon, where the government has deployed army helicopters and hundreds of troops to protect its own dwindling elephant population.
Last year, nearly 500 elephants were slaughtered in under two months in Cameroon.
Meanwhile, Washington Post reported mid-January, "Custom officials seized 638 pieces of illegal elephant ivory estimated to be worth $1.2 million at Kenya’s main port, evidence of what wildlife officials described Wednesday as a growing threat to East Africa’s elephants."
And just a couple weeks before that, on January 5, eleven elephants were killed in one massacre by a gang of poachers at Bisadi area of Tsavo East National Park.
News for elephants is rarely positive, and even less so as demand for their ivory increases. While some celebrities like Yao Ming have made efforts to bring attention to the issue, the future of elephants is dependent to some extent on African countries' abilities to stop poachers, but is much more dependent on ending the Asian demand for ivory.