Elephant meat is flooding food markets in villages near a famed wildlife reserve in Central African Republic one month after rebels believed to be involved in poaching overthrew the government, conservationists said Thursday. The Dzanga-Sangha reserve in the rainforests of southwestern Central African Republic has been home to more than 3,400 forest elephants and features a world-renowned clearing where dozens gather each day.
Now the political chaos unleashed by a rebellion that overthrew Central African Republic's president of a decade has enabled elephant poachers to further their slaughter.
"Elephant poaching is on the increase and given the fact that Central African Republic for the moment is also in dire straits we are fearing for the worst in terms of people trying to look seriously for ivory," said Bas Huijbregts, head of policy for WWF's campaign against poaching in Central Africa.
Elephant meat is now being openly sold not only in the town of Bayanga near the reserve, but also in surrounding villages near the protected wildlife area, which is part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, he said.
"Given the total absence of any type of law enforcement and rule of law in the area, there is elephant meat all over the place," he said.
At least 40 elephants have been slain at Dzanga-Sangha since the rebels took power on March 24, said local residents, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals from the rebels operating in the area.
However, WWF said it was impossible to estimate how many animals may have been killed because there are currently no patrols going on in the forest to determine where the elephant carcasses may be.
Central African Republic's forest elephants have faced growing threats in recent years from Sudanese hunters on horseback who are making their way further and further south. More....