By Matthew Scully
"Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be protectors of creation, protectors of God's plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world!"
- Pope Francis, March 19
Destruction and Death, as Pope Francis offered this homily in St. Peter's Square, had just left the scene in the central African nation of Chad, where in a single night in mid-March 89 elephants were slaughtered for their tusks. Reports described the ivory poachers as 50 or so men on camel and horseback, speaking Arabic, armed with AK-47s, and presumed to be the same band that came over from Sudan last year to execute more than 450 elephants in Cameroon -- on that foray, dispatching their victims with rocket-propelled grenades.
Unless Western and African nations can turn things around fast, in order to protect the 400,000 or so left, then the elephants of Africa, pretty much all of them, will soon be gone. In Chad, near the Cameroon border to the south, they left their mark by sparing not even the 33 pregnant females and 15 elephant calves, and by hacking off the tusks while some of the creatures were still alive. There were four park rangers on duty that night, short a fifth guard who was murdered by poachers last year. But they were far away at the time, and, in any case, would have been helpless against overwhelming force. Among other problems, the elephant preserve is about 850 square miles, a big stretch of creation for just four guys to protect. More....