By Denise Chow
Elephant poachers in Central Africa were seen entering a protected area and shooting in the direction of elephants on Monday, wildlife officials reported.
A group of 17 armed poachers entered the Dzanga-Ndoki National Park in the Central African Republic in an effort to reach the Dzanga Bai, a clearing where anywhere from 50 to 200 elephants can be found, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). This area, known to locals as the "village of elephants," attracts herds of elephants who gather daily to drink mineral salts in the sands.
The Central African Republic has been plagued by political instability since the beginning of the year, and poachers in the region are taking advantage of this turmoil to fuel the ivory trade, said Jim Leape, WWF's international director general.
"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," Leape said in a statement. "Wildlife crime is not only a consequence of instability, but a cause. It fuels violence in the region, in a vicious circle that undermines the stability of these countries and their economic development."
Unless they are stopped, the poachers could cause one of the biggest elephant massacres in the region since February 2012, when at least 300 elephants were killed in Cameroon's Bouba N'Djida National Park, WWF officials said. The group called on the country's government and international aid to take action to protect the elephants. More....