Voice of America (Washington, DC)

Cameroon: Illegal Ivory Trade Funds African Rebel Groups

YAOUNDE — Cameroon said its soldiers have shot and killed five suspected poachers who had opened fire on elephants in the West Africa country. The military said some of those killed were Janjaweed militiamen from Sudan.

The heavily armed poachers were caught operating in the Waza National Park and shooting elephants.

A spokesperson for Cameroon's military, Colonel Didier Badjeck, said soldiers who have been patrolling to protect the majestic animals responded, and in a shootout that erupted, five of the poachers were killed and ammunition seized.

He said the rapid intervention battalion of the Cameroon army had been deployed in the park with expert shooters and logistics. To obtain results, he adds, air and land patrols were organized. Ten horses, more than 2,000 bullets and 88 elephant tusks were seized and handed to the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife.

More than 1,000 elephants live in the park, which located in far northern Cameroon, near borders with Nigeria and Chad.

The soldiers said they have been working with locals to obtain information about the poachers, but most people in the area have left out of fear.

Poaching has decimated Africa's elephant populations. Poachers kill the elephants mainly for their ivory tusks, which remain in great demand in Asia despite a 1989 treaty that made the ivory trade illegal. The revenue is often used to sponsor rebel activities in various countries.

The director of the World Wildlife Fund in Central Africa, Hanson Langmia, said his organization is calling on Asian countries to crack down on the ivory trade.

"They use ivory for a lot of things, ornaments and also some believe that licking the dust from elephant Ivory can make you have potent powers, which is not true, but it is a traditional belief in those areas," he said.

Wildlife groups said Africa's total elephant population has dropped an alarming 62 percent during the past 20 years.

Last year, 100 elephants were killed in Cameroon, an improvement over 2012 when 300 of the animals were felled by poachers' bullets.

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