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World Elephant Day Celebrated Amidst Fears Of Extinction 

By Leocadia Bongben — The maiden edition of World Elephant Day was celebrated on August 12 amidst fears of extinction of the specie in Central Africa if poaching for ivory tusks, illegal trade in wildlife and loss of habitat are not checked. The fear of extinction is exacerbated in Central Africa following the invasion and killing of over 300 elephants in the Bouba N’Djida National Park between January and March by a heavily armed gang suspected to be Sudanese.

Six months after the incident, the World Wild Fund for Nature, WWF, has released a video from the scene of the killings, two days to the Elephant Day. This is to create awareness of the threat to elephants and urge the population to experience elephants in sustainable environment where they can thrive under care and protection. The Bouba N’Djida incident is one in many incidents of elephant killings as poaching is rampant in different parts of the country.

Three members of the Cameroon military were caught poaching in the Campo Ma’an National Park. There have also been reports of killing of rangers, who were tracking poachers adjacent to the Bouba N’Djida Park. Like in Cameroon, elephant poaching has also been reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo by rebel leaders in a wildlife area two weeks ago. Recently 30 elephants were killed in Chad, and the Chadian President reportedly sent troops in a helicopter to chase poachers.

Tens of thousand of elephants are killed every year for their tusks, which are trafficked to markets in Asia. “Today’s poaching gangs are sophisticated, global and vicious, they are invading our countries, not only slaughtering wild life, but also killing rangers and terrorising communities,” Basile Yapo, WWF Cameroon Country Director said. Against this background, elephant insecurity is on the rise in the Central African region and there is urgent need for protection.

“Conservation is no longer an issue for environmental institutions alone. People’s lives and jobs are at risk because of it. Each time an elephant is killed the country loses economic value. WWF is calling on Central African governments to put an end to ivory poaching and wildlife crime,” Central Africa WWF Regional Representative, Stefanie Conrad, said. The Cameroon Government has responded to the growing poaching by agreeing to a plan to recruit additional 2.500 rangers within the next five years.

Cameroon also intends to establish a new national park authority in line with the Prime Ministers approval of an emergency plan of action for securing all protected areas around Cameroon borders. This is besides the deployment of 60 new eco-guards to secure the Bouba N’Djida Park. The World Wild Fund for Nature, WWF and TRAFFIC, Wild Life Trade Monitoring Network would launch a global campaign to stop illegal trade in ivory, rhino horn and tiger parts.

First published in The Post print edition No. 1366