By Tony Carnie
An elephant has been gunned down in the Tembe Elephant Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal, an ominous signal that Mozambique-based rhino horn syndicates have added ivory to their shopping list. The killing was the first confirmed case of ivory poaching in Tembe and other South African government reserves in the past several years and has heightened concern in conservation circles that elephants will soon be targeted actively in this region because of surging black market prices for ivory.
The adult elephant cow was shot several times on Monday by eight poachers armed with at least one AK-47 assault rifle. Before they fled into Mozambique under cover of darkness, the gang hacked out both tusks and also chopped off part of the elephant’s trunk and tail.
The killing comes just a month after the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (Wessa) warned that South Africa’s elephants – largely safe from the current ivory massacres in central and eastern Africa – could be next as ivory prices have doubled over the past three years.
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife confirmed that patrolling rangers heard the sound of shots and tried to give chase. They had to give up because it was too dark to follow the poachers’ tracks.
The search resumed at first light the next day but the gang had already crossed the border into Mozambique.
“Evidence points to a group of eight poachers using an AK-47 to kill the elephant with six shots, and cutting the tusks out using sharp instruments,” Ezemvelo officials said. More....