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The year 2011 has been called the “annus horribilis” for African elephants.

Ivory Seizure in Malaysia

The head of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), John Scanlon, has expressed his deep concern over recent reports of the poaching of almost 450 elephants in a national park in Cameroon.

“This most recent incident of poaching elephants is on a massive scale but it reflects a new trend we are detecting across many range states, where well-armed poachers with sophisticated weapons decimate elephant populations, often with impunity,” Scanlon said.

The CITES program for Monitoring Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) has revealed increasing levels of poaching in 2011. Scanlon explained that the spike is of grave concern not only to Cameroon, a member state to CITES, but to all 38 range states of the African elephant.

Large-scale seizures have dramatically increased. At least 13 seizures, each over 1,700 pounds, took place in 2011. In comparison, six large-scale seizures took place in 2010. According to reports, elephants have been slaughtered by hunters from Sudan and Chad in recent weeks. Poached ivory is being exchanged for weapons, cash, and ammunition to support conflicts between neighboring countries.

The most recent case consisted of 727 ivory pieces, discovered in December. The pieces were hidden inside a container at the port of Mombasa, Kenya, and headed for Asia. Most seizures of African ivory in the last year have originated in Kenyan or Tanzanian ports.  Read more..