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Demand in Thailand 'cause of African elephant poaching'

Savannah elephants in the Bouba N

Savannah elephants in the Bouba N

More than 500 soldiers have been working hard in the Bouba Ndjida National Park on a mission to end a bloody business - elephant poaching. And though this operation is taking place thousands of miles away, it is very much related to the ivory trade in Thailand.

In February last year, poachers slaughtered more than 300 elephants in the national park for ivory and if this illegal hunting is not stopped, this species will most definitely disappear.

The authorities in Cameroon believe that the reason behind this poaching is Thailand - where ivory trade is legal. As per Thai law, the sale of tusks from domesticated elephants is allowed.

However, now that international pressure is rising, Thailand has recently pledged to take strict action against shops that sell smuggled ivory.

"We hope Thailand is aware of the problem because demand of ivory there is affecting us," Colonel Bouba Dobekreo, chief of Bouba Ndjida BIR, said.

The massacre of 300 elephants last February was the final straw for the Cameroon government, and even though it is four times poorer than Thailand, the country has already spent millions of dollars on protecting their elephants.

Since November, it has even deployed the Batallion d'Intervention Rapide (BIR or Rapid Intervention Battalion) at the Bouba Ndjida National Park.

In the park, several groups of a dozen soldiers go on 10-day long patrol treks. Helicopter patrols are also done twice a week. The Bouba Ndjida National Park covers approximately 11,000 square kilometres.

The soldiers are not just armed with guns and weapons, but also have modern technology like GPRS and satellite signals to gather information on the movement of elephants.

Since the BIR sprang into action, not a single elephant has been killed at the national park.

However, local resident Paul Bore, who witnessed up to 300 elephants being killed in the area last year, said he was not very optimistic about the operation or it having any long-term results.

"In my lifetime, I have seen villagers, soldiers and even poachers being killed due to elephant poaching. I believe there are only two ways to stop elephant poaching: the first is to stop the demand, and the second is to let all the elephants die. In the end, I hope we make the right choice," he said.

Colonel Dobekreo has also called on Thais to stop purchasing ivory products.

"Ivory trade is illegal in Cameroon, but still each and every elephant is under threat of slaughter, which is triggered by demand for ivory elsewhere," he said.

WWF has already called on citizens of Central Africa to sign a petition requesting Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to change the law and ban ivory trade.



Central African Republic: The number of elephants has dropped from 80,000 about 30 years ago to a few thousand today.

Democratic Republic of Congo: The number of elephants has dropped from over 100,000 about 20 years ago to between 7,000 and 10,000,

Republic of Congo: The elephant population has dropped by 50 per cent over the past decade.

Gabon: Despite having Africa's largest wild elephant population, it's parks now average at one elephant per kilometre, down from up to four pachyderms per kilometre less than a decade ago.

Source: WWF Central Africa




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