NYT Series Explores Epic Elephant Poaching That Threatens Species' Survival


It looked like a mob hit—a single bullet to the top of the head, no evidence left behind, not even tracks or footprints. From military helicopters, authorities believe, elephants are being killed in commando-style raids. One shot to the head, even the babies. Tusks hacked off but the meat left to rot in the sun (whereas a poacher on foot would have taken at least some meat for the road).

“Africa is in the midst of an epic elephant slaughter,” The New York Times reported in a September 4 story, the first in a series. “Conservation groups say poachers are wiping out tens of thousands of elephants a year, more than at any time in the previous two decades, with the underground ivory trade becoming increasingly militarized.”

The crime happened in Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and park officials, scientists and the Congolese authorities think one particular raid that claimed 22 elephants was conducted by the Ugandan military, netting these super-poachers more than a million dollars in ivory, most of which goes to China. Likewise, Viet Nam's elephants have been virtually extinguished, the Times said in a story introducing the series.

Elephant poaching has reached par with blood diamonds, the Times said. And far from being relegated to thugs, the industry has reached the halls of government. In fact, some of those charged with protecting elephants are involved in their slaughter, the Times reported. Experts such as Princeton University ecologist Andrew Dobson say the elephant species’ very survival is in danger.

“The huge populations in West Africa have disappeared, and those in the center and east are going rapidly,” Dobson told the Times. “The question is: Do you want your children to grow up in a world without elephants?”

Read the rest of “Elephants Dying in Epic Frenzy as Ivory Fuels Wars and Profits.”