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04/29/2013

Elephant meat now on the menu as poaching grows

Elephant
(Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images)

There were up to 5 million elephants in Africa 70 years ago. Today, just several hundred thousand are left and in the past year, an estimated 32,000 elephants were killed for their ivory.

There is more bad news. World Wildlife Fund and World Conservation Society say that pachyderms are being slaughtered in huge numbers in the Central African Republic.

The two agencies say they have received “alarming reports from their field operations” that elephants are being slaughtered in the violence-ridden country as a new government scrambles to take control of the situation.

CAR has been plagued with violence for decades but things came to a head in March when rebels seized control and the president Francois Bozize fled the capital, Bangui.

Due to the violence and chaos in the area, the exact number of elephants being slaughtered is not known, says WWF.

The agency says it has confirmed that forest elephants are being poached near the Dzanga-Sangha protected areas, a World Heritage Site. What is worse is that elephant meat is reportedly being openly sold in local markets and is available in nearby villages. “The security situation is preventing park staff from searching the dense forest for elephant carcasses,” says WWF.

WWF and WCS have worked in CAR since the 1980s and have called on the country and its neighbours to immediately increase security to protect the people and elephants.

Black-market ivory sells for about $1,300 per pound.

Wildlife experts say that illegal ivory trade is hastening the decline of already endangered elephants throughout Africa.

Raveena Aulakh is the Star's environment reporter. She is intrigued by climate change and its impact, now and long-term, and wildlife. Follow her on Twitter @raveenaaulakh

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