Science & Environment

'Twenty-six' forest elephants slaughtered in Central Africa

Elephants
Image caption Forest elephants in the Central African Republic have become a new target for poaching gangs

Men armed with Kalashnikov rifles have massacred 26 elephants in the Dzanga-Ndoki National Park in the Central African Republic, say conservationists.

WWF reported the number of carcasses, quoting its sources in the region.

Concern about what was happening in the park was raised earlier this week when it was said that ivory poachers were using a scientist's observation platform to shoot the animals.

Elephants regularly gather at the Bai, a large clearing, to drink.

Since the shooting, no elephants have been seen in the area, WWF reported.

The Dzanga-Ndoki Park, a World Heritage Site, is located in the south-western corner of the Central African Republic (CAR), where it borders Cameroon and the Republic of Congo.

It is described as a unique habitat for forest elephants in particular.

CAR has witnessed increased levels of violence since the beginning of the year, and conservation groups like WWF withdrew their staff from the Bai are for safety reasons.

On Monday, the conservation group issued a warning that a 17 armed individuals, some with heavy-calibre rifles, had entered the park and was heading for the Bai, known locally as the "village of elephants".

By the time the armed men had left, the Bai was said to resemble an "elephant mortuary", WWF said.

Jim Leape, WWF International Director General, added: "The Central African Republic must act immediately to secure this unique World Heritage Site.

"The brutal violence we are witnessing in Dzanga Bai threatens to destroy one of the world's great natural treasures, and to jeopardise the future of the people who live there.

"The international community must also act to assist the Central African Republic to restore peace and order in this country to safeguard its population and its natural heritage."

Sudanese ivory poachers have been blamed for the killings.

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