By Rodney Muhumuza
Members of a militia run by fugitive African warlord Joseph Kony are killing elephants across Central Africa to support Kony’s struggling group, according to a report by watchdog organizations that are urging the expansion of programs to encourage defections from the Lord’s Resistance Army.
The Enough Project, the Satellite Sentinel Project and two other groups said in the report released Monday that the LRA has turned to elephant poaching “as a means to sustain itself,” and that the militia uses money from the illegal trade in ivory to acquire food and other supplies.
“With prices at record-high levels, trading illegal ivory offers the LRA another way to sustain itself in addition to its habitual pillaging,” the report said. “Former senior fighters who defected from the group report that the LRA trades ivory for arms, ammunition, and food.”
The report said Kony, a cruel warlord who is accused of using boys as fighters and girls as sex slaves, gave the order to butcher elephants for their ivory as far back as 2010. Former captives say that LRA groups in Central African Republic and Congo “trade ivory with unidentified people who arrive in helicopters.”
In February Ugandan troops operating in Central African Republic discovered six elephant tusks believed to have been hidden in the bush by the LRA. Ugandan army officials said at the time that they were acting on information given by an LRA defector who said Kony long ago instructed his fighters to find ivory and bring it to him.
Experts say that Africa’s elephants are under increased threat from habitat loss and poachers motivated by rising demand for ivory in Asia. About 70 years ago, up to 5 million elephants are believed to have roamed sub-Saharan Africa. Today fewer than a million remain. The elephants of Central Africa, a region long plagued by armed conflict and lawlessness, are especially vulnerable. Much of the harvested ivory ends up as small trinkets. More....