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A thousand soldiers sent after marauding elephant poachers [warning: graphic photos]

A scene of terror: the bodies of 89 elephants were found in Chad earlier in the month following a massacre by poachers. Photo courtesy of SOS Elephants in Chad.
A scene of terror: the bodies of 89 elephants were found in Chad earlier in the month following a massacre by poachers. Photo courtesy of SOS Elephants in Chad.

Eight Central African nations have announced they will send a thousand soldiers after poachers responsible for slaughtering 89 elephants, including over 30 pregnant mothers, in Chad earlier this month. The mobilization of soldiers and law enforcement officers could be a sign that Central African countries are beginning to take elephant poaching, which has decimated populations across Africa, more seriously.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) reports that the group of heavily armored, horse-riding poachers are also believed to be responsible for killing some 30 elephants in the Central African Republic earlier in the year as well as 300 elephants in Cameroon last year.

“[The Economic Community of Central African States] (ECCAS) and its member states deserve to be congratulated for their determination to once and for all stop these elephant killers,” Bas Huijbregts, head of WWF’s Central African campaign against the illegal wildlife trade, said.

The commitment of soldiers was made after a three-day ministerial meeting in Cameroon.

Growing demand for ivory in East Asia has caused elephant poaching to rise catastrophically. Elephant populations in Central Africa have been the hardest hit; in fact a recent study in PLoS ONE estimated that 60 percent of the world’s forest elephants (found in the Congo rainforest) have been killed by poachers in the last ten years alone. Genetic evidence has shown that the world’s forest elephants are in fact a distinct species from the more well-known savannah elephant. In all, experts estimate that some 25,000 elephants were killed in 2011 for their tusks.

“Now, it is up to demand countries—principally China and Thailand—to show that they have as much courage and determination as these Central African countries,” Huijbregts said.

Dead mother with calf still attached to umbilical cord. The Chairman of SOS Elephants Chad, Stephanie Vergniault, told that this calf was likely born during the shooting attach by poachers only to perish. Photo courtesy of SOS Elephants in Chad.

Officials stand next to the body of slaughtered elephant, one of some seven dozen. Photo courtesy of SOS Elephants in Chad.

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