Darfur, the southwestern region of Sudan, has become a key route for smuggling of ivory from the Central African Republic to international black markets. Not only the traders but also many of the hunters themselves are reported to be Sudanese.
The International Crisis Group (ICG), a research organization, published a new report on the crisis in Central Africa, in which it discussed the issue of smuggling of ivory and diamonds to Sudan.
Crisis Group says that foreign poachers “now traverse the whole country due to the disappearance of elephants and rhinos in the east.” Typically the foreign poachers are aided by local networks. They leave behind the meat while exporting the tusks.
Citing interviews with the wildlife ministry and the former director of the Sangha Nature Reserve, ICG stated, “Much of the ivory is taken through the northeast of the country before passing to Sudan, while a more insignificant amount is taken to Bangui where it is bought by local traders (Chinese, Lebanese) or to Cameroon in markets in Libongo and Yokadouma.”
Last year in May the World Wildlife Fund reported that horse-mounted Sudanese ivory poachers killed at least 26 elephants in the Dzanga Bai national park. According to Crisis Group, these poachers were bearing an order signed by a government official in Bangui in order to facilitate their expedition.
The ICG report explains, “The poachers form groups of 20 to 80 people and practice militarized poaching in the east of Central Africa. According to corroborating sources, these groups are armed with AK-47s, equipped with satellite phones and financed by certain Sudanese families living in the Nyala area in South Darfur.”
The poachers are selling ivory in the Sudanese cities Buram, Tulus and Um Dafog, located not far from the borders with Central Africa and South Sudan. From these towns it is sent to Nyala and then exported mainly to Asia.
Officials as far as Cameroon have implicated Sudanese poachers in killings of elephants. In early 2012 officials and wildlife organizations reported that nearly 300 elephants were slaughtered in a single dry season campaign.
At the time, an official of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) was quoted as saying, “It was common for armed gangs of poachers to cross from Sudan during the dry season to kill elephants for their ivory. But this latest massacre is massive and has no comparison to those of the preceding years."
The report by ICG also says that the Sudanese export route for diamonds has taken on increasing importance in Central Africa’s east after the departure of many west African traders who left under pressure from the Seleka militia.
“Traditionally, the trade in northeastern CAR is dominated by Sudanese merchants with whom the locals have loose [social\ ties. The smuggling of diamonds towards Sudan is actually an old trade,” reads the ICG report.
One route for this trade is from Bria and Sam Ouandja areas to Nyala, the capital of South Darfur.