By Jenny Kutner
A small team of U.S. Marines are the newest recruits in Chad’s efforts to stop a horrible string of poaching that has decimated the country’s elephant population in recent years. A contingent of 15 troops from a special Marines task force will spend about a month in the central African nation, teaching approximately 100 of Chad’s park rangers military tactics that will help them combat heavily armed poachers in an effort to protect elephants. Chad’s elephant population dropped from over 4,000 elephants in 2005 to just 450 in 2010 and, as a result, the government has prioritized protection efforts.
“This is a first time partnership, conducted under Department of State foreign assistance authorities, with the Chadian rangers, whose primary mission is anti-poaching,” task force spokesperson James Stenger told the Marine Corps Times. “However, they have collateral duties of border security and countering illicit trafficking within the sovereign territory of the Republic of Chad … This in turn leads to greater regional stability by building partnership between U.S. and foreign forces.”
And if there’s anything to be learned from the current violence afflicting a number of central African nations and the elephants that live there, it’s that greater regional stability can often provide a much-needed boost to wildlife conservation efforts. The Marine deployment to Chad is just one example of the growing trend to militarize protection efforts in response to an increasingly vicious and demanding global market for ivory.
The ivory trade drives a brutal campaign of international poaching that killed 22,000 elephants in 2012 alone, despite a global ban on the sale of ivory. Join us in pledging never to buy new or vintage ivory products -- which include narwhal, walrus and hippo ivory -- to help save the world's animals from poaching.