Interpol Conducts 'War' On Poaching In Africa

Last year, African conservationists saw the highest level of elephant poaching in more than a decade, and ivory seizures were at their highest recorded levels since 1989 — the year that international trade in elephant ivory was banned.
 During 2011, more than 20,000 elephants were slaughtered for an estimated 24,000 kilograms of ivory, and wildlife officials also noted a drastic increase in large-scale seizures (more than 800 kg in a single transaction) since 2009.

The large-scale shipments, experts say, indicate the presence of organized crime. While some Africa-based wildlife officials point to primarily Asian-led crime syndicates, they refuse to provide further details for fear of jeopardizing on-going investigations.

With ivory's market value reaching $900 per kilogram in China, the financial stakes are high, and it appears sponsors are adopting bold new tactics to satisfy demand.

"One criminal syndicate will gather a poaching gang together, and that poaching gang will be assigned instructions to kill a specific herd of elephants or to provide a specific amount of ivory," says William Clark of Interpol's Environmental Crime program. 

"We're finding that, consistently, in all of the large seizures, the DNA says these animals were brothers and sisters, uncles, aunts, parents and children — very closely related. 

This is not opportunistically-poached ivory where some poachers killed two elephants up in the north of the country and four more in the south and some middleman collected it all together. Oh no. One specific population is targeted and exterminated."

Elephants are intelligent, social and affectionate creatures that, experts say, live in tight-knit family herds that mourn their dead, often staring silently at remains of the deceased.

One conservationist said gangs of poachers have been known to lie in wait to pick off elephants that got away during the initial ambush but instinctively return to the kill.

What's worse: In poaching hotspots such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Chad, gangs usually outnumber and outgun often under-resourced park rangers.
Interpol 2155128710446738853

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