In Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve alone, some 50 elephants a month are being killed and their tusks hacked off, according to the Washington-based Environmental Investigation Agency.
With shipments so large, criminals have taken to shipping them by sea instead of by air, falsifying documents with the help of corrupt officials, monitors said.
In another sign of corruption, Milliken said some of the seized ivory has been identified as coming from government-owned stockpiles — made up of both confiscated tusks and those from dead elephants.
Rhinos also have suffered: A record 443 rhino were killed this year in South Africa, according to National Geographic News Watch. That surpassed last year’s figure of 333 dead rhino despite the government deploying soldiers to protect the endangered animals this year in its flagship Kruger National Park.
National Geographic reported this week that 244 of the rhino killed this year were poached in Kruger, and that figure is expected to rise before the end of the month.
South Africa is home to 90 percent of the rhinos left on the continent, and Kruger has more than 10,000 white rhinos and about 500 black rhinos.
Africa’s elephant population was estimated at between 5 million and 10 million before white hunters came to the continent with European colonization. Massive poaching for the ivory trade in the 1980s halved the remaining number of African elephants to about 600,000.
Following the 1989 ban on ivory trade and concerted international efforts to protect the animals, elephant herds in east and southern Africa were thriving before the new threat arrived from Asia.
A report from Kenya’s Amboseli National Park highlighted the dangers. There had been almost no poaching for 30 years in the park, which lies in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro until a Chinese company was awarded the contract to build a highway nearby two years ago. Amboseli has lost at least four of its “big tuskers” since then.
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