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In Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve alone, about 50 elephants a month are killed and their tusks hacked off, according to the Washington-based Environmental Investigation Agency.

With shipments so large, criminals have taken to sending them by sea instead of by air, falsifying documents with the help of corrupt officials, monitors said.

In another sign of corruption, some of the seized ivory has been identified as coming from government-owned stockpiles — made up of confiscated tusks and those from dead elephants, Mr. Milliken said.

Rhinos also have suffered. A record 443 rhinos were killed last year in South Africa, according to National Geographic News Watch.

That surpassed 2009’s figure of 333 dead rhinos, despite the deployment of government soldiers to protect the endangered animals last year in its flagship Kruger National Park.

National Geographic reported last week that 244 of the rhinos killed last year were poached in Kruger, and that figure is expected to rise.

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 5 million to 10 million before white hunters came to the continent with European colonization in the 19th century.

Massive poaching for the ivory trade in the 1980s cut the remaining number of African elephants to about 600,000.

After the 1989 ban on ivory trade and concerted international efforts to protect the animals, elephant herds in eastern and southern Africa were thriving before the threat arrived from Asia.

A report from Kenya’s Amboseli National Park highlighted the dangers.

Almost no poaching occurred 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 three years ago.