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Although there have been alternative oaths for Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists for decades, there have been no such exceptions made for atheists.

Wayne Bullitt, the association’s chief commissioner in the U.K., said the proposed change is meant to keep the group relevant and to encourage membership.

But he said Tuesday the group plans to keep its oath to the queen.

The Scouting movement began more than a century ago, and now encompasses some 40 million members worldwide.


Foreign poachers target elephants

YAOUNDE — Despite armed guards, Cameroon’s dwindling elephant population is being devastated by heavily armed gangs of international poachers, according to a top official of the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Tighter security has been mounted because intelligence shows that two gangs of poachers from Sudan are heading for the area, said WWF Cameroon conservation director Hanson Njiforti at a news conference Tuesday.

In the first quarter of this year, poachers traveled more than 620 miles on horseback from Sudan, crossing through the Central African Republic to reach northern Cameroon’s Bouba Ndjida National Park, where they killed more than 300 elephants in two months.

The killings wiped out about 80 percent of the park’s elephant population.

“Two large groups of these same armed poachers are again on their way to Cameroon and are actually in the Republic of Central Africa,” warned Mr. Njiforti.

The high demand for ivory in Asia threatens the remaining elephant population in Cameroon and the Central African subregion with possible extinction, said U.S. Ambassador to Cameroon Robert P. Jackson, who also spoke to journalists.

Africa is home to roughly 600,000 elephants, just a third of the number recorded a decade ago, according to data released by the U.S. Embassy.

Conservationists say that at least 25,000 elephants were killed on the continent in 2012 alone, owing to the demand for ivory, as the bodies of the animals were abandoned after their ivory tusks were removed.

From wire dispatches and staff reports