Since mid-January, it’s estimated that at least 200 elephants have been killed in Cameroon, and park officials believe that the situation is only worsening. Just last week, rangers heard gunshots in the Bouba Ndjida National Park in the north of Cameroon and shortly afterwards no less than fourteen elephant carcasses were found, mutilated and stripped of their ivory tusks. The highest incidence of cases have been in unexplored and remote regions of the Bouba Ndjida reserve and, as monitoring and surveillance is difficult in these parts, park officials are expecting more carcasses to be uncovered in the near future.
Recent figures indicated that the number of wild elephants in Cameroon was approximately 1,000-1,500 (IUCN, 2007). It is feared that continuous harvesting at the rate of the current onslaught will heavily impact, or possibly even wipe out, the remaining population. Orphaned calves have already been spotted and their survival without parents is questionable, which will impact the recovery potential of the next generation.
The sudden increase in poaching may be due to the decline in the elephant population in Chad, which may now number just a few hundred, which has caused poachers from Sudan and the Central African Republic to migrate to Cameroon to source ivory. Once extracted, the ivory is transported to markets in Asia and Europe where it is sold on the black market.
The African elephant, of which the West African savannah elephant is a subspecies, is ranked number 383 on the EDGE list. The African elephant shows a very high level of evolutionary distinctiveness but in 2004 it was downgraded to Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List which explains its current position on the EDGE list. In reality, as this the situation in Cameroon demonstrates, the African elephant’s status varies dramatically across its range.
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