An elephant in Kruger National Park. Photo: Ciaran Wheeler
Death of elephant could be a sign that poachers and wildlife traffickers are turning their attention to Africa’s southern herds
In a national park better known for its battle against rhino poaching, rangers in South Africa’s Kruger National Park discovered a bull elephant on Thursday that had been shot and its tusks hacked off. The killing comes on the same day that authorities in Hong Kong burned 6 tonnes of ivory in an effort to raise awareness about elephant poaching in Africa. The illegal trade in ivory is largely credited with fueling elephant poaching, which claims between 25,000 and 35,000 elephants each year in Africa.
“This is a dark sign that Southern Africa’s elephant herds are not immune to the poaching epidemic sweeping the continent,” says African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) Senior Director of Conservation Science Dr. Philip Muruthi. “No country will escape the poachers so long as the black market for ivory flourishes.”
According to Muruthi, Southern Africa is home to some of the continent’s largest elephant herds, with many populations thriving and even expanding. While not immune to poaching—last year more than 100 elephants were killed in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park after a waterhole was laced with cyanide—elephants in Southern Africa have tended to fare better than their counterparts in East, Central, and West Africa.
As park authorities in Kruger investigated the elephant death on Thursday, Hong Kong authorities on the same day began the first in a series of ivory incinerations. The Special Administrative Region intends to destroy 29 tonnes of ivory over the next two years. AWF has advocated for all countries to destroy their ivory stockpiles and to place a ban on legal, domestic trade in ivory, since the legal trade enables the illicit trade to continue.
“The death of this elephant just reinforces that we need to move faster in shutting down the ivory trade before it’s too late,” says AWF CEO Dr. Patrick Bergin.
South Africa has become a battleground in the war against poaching and wildlife trafficking. In 2013, 1,004 rhinos were poached in the country, 606 of which were killed in Kruger National Park. As of mid-May of this year, 376 rhinos have been poached, 245 of which were killed in Kruger.
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