By John Burnett
An insatiable demand for ivory in Asia is fueling a massive slaughter of elephants across Africa. As NPR's John Burnett reports, In this story, he visits an ivory poacher's town that sits next to a major game reserve.
It's midday in Mloka, a cheerless village that is the gateway to one of Africa's greatest nature sanctuaries, the Selous Game Reserve, which is larger than Switzerland and has vast numbers of giraffes, zebras and hippos in addition to elephants. The sun is stultifying, and the streets are lifeless, but business is booming for the poachers in Mloka.
Two poachers agreed to talk about their illegal work in the courtyard of a low-cost guesthouse in Mloka, where laundry hangs on a line and prostitutes slip in and out of rooms.
A 46-year-old elephant killer who gives his name as Mkanga slouches in a plastic chair.
"Ivory buyers come to Mloka and look for us. They say they want 200 kilograms [440 pounds\ of ivory, can you arrange for that? The businessmen are mainly Chinese," he says.
"After getting a down payment, I look for some boys to hire as porters. We bring flour, sugar, beans and water with us," he adds. "We cross into the game reserve at night, but after that we can move in the daytime because there is no one there."
Tracking Elephants To Watering Holes
The second poacher, who gives his name as Salma Abdallah, is 35 and wears a dirty Dallas Cowboys jersey.
"Elephants fear for their lives so it's not easy to spot them," he says. "We'll walk for five days or more. We find them when they go to drink water in the afternoon or go to a forest to feed."
Abdallah says he goes out with about 10 guys, each with a different role.
"I am the shooter," he says. More....