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05/09/2013

Elephant poachers reported in Cameroon's Dzanga-Ndoki National Park

Ivory

A photo from August 2010 shows a Kenya Wildlife Services ranger standing guard over an ivory haul as it is moved through Jomo Kenyatta Airport in Nairobi. (AFP)

Bad news about elephants just doesn’t seem to end, does it?

World Wildlife Fund says poachers have entered one of Africa’s unique elephant habitats, Dzanga-Ndoki National Park, in Cameroon.  

A group of 17 armed “individuals” entered the park earlier this week and headed for the Dzanga Bai, locally known as the “village of elephants," a large clearing where between 50 and 200 elephants congregate every day to drink mineral salts present in the sands, said a WWF news release

Reportedly, two WWF-supported local researchers were approached by some members of this armed group in the forest on Monday, asking for food and directions to a viewing tower used by scientists and tourists to observe elephants.

The researchers said they gave a false lead and ran away. But they soon heard gunshots.

It is not exactly clear what happened after.  

“Unless swift and decisive action is taken, it appears highly likely that poachers will take advantage of the chaos and instability of the country to slaughter the elephants living in this unique World Heritage Site,” Jim Leape, WWF international director general said in the statement.

In Bouba N’Djida, Cameroon’s other national park, poachers killed at least 300 elephants in February 2012.

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 have been killed for their ivory.

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

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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