Friday, October 19, 2007

Sierra Leone report upsurge in elephant poaching

Authorities in Sierra Leone on Thursday expressed concern at the upsurge in elephant poaching after at least 10 jumbos were killed in the past two months in the west African country for meat and illicit ivory trade.

Senior wildlife official Kailie Bangura said the animals were killed in two wildlife parks in the remote northern Outaba Kilimi and Loma Mountain parks near the border with Guinea.

He suspected the elephants fell prey to foreign hunters.

"These illegal hunters are killing these animals because of their tusks and meat," he told AFP.

Kenneth Moore, a wildlife officer, said the last official elephant census in 1989 counted around 5,000 animals, but the war slashed the number down to between 1,000 and 2,500 according to an unofficial survey carried out in 2002 after the country's decade-long civil war.

"Given the fact that both (warring) groups in the war constantly feasted on elephant meat while fighting in the bush, that number ... scaled down drastically," Moore told AFP.

In 2005, some experts speculated that Sierra Leone's elephant population had been decimated to no more than a couple of hundred.

The former British colony was wracked by a 10-year civil conflict between 1991 and 2001.

The war, funded by blood diamonds and considered one of the most brutal in modern history, left around 120,000 people dead and thousands more mutilated and traumatised.

Sierra Leone report upsurge in elephant poaching - Yahoo! News