The war on elephants

Alistair Leithead in BBC News:

EleBloated and eerily upright the large adult elephant was still standing where it had been killed – just next to the stream – its face hacked off. It had been fleeing the carnage in the mud 100m or so away, where the remains of four other adults and one young elephant lay fallen and disfigured, their tusks and trunks all taken for ivory and meat. Like a macabre statue, this faceless animal stood as a landmark to the horrors of poaching, of the ivory trade, and of the mass slaughter of the last remaining elephants in central Africa. The pilot of the light aircraft was out on a regular reconnaissance mission when circling vultures drew him to the scene. The armed rangers on patrol nearby hadn't heard the shots, so it was the scavengers feasting on the carcasses that had raised the alarm.

Garamba, in the north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, is one of the oldest national parks in Africa, designated in 1938. It covers 14,000 sq km (5,500 sq miles) dominated by savannah grasses, which when green and lush can reach 3m in height, enveloping the elephants and concealing them even from the air. It's tough going on foot with the criss-crossing streams that feed the great Congo River, punctuated by papyrus marsh, forest and scrub. The park was made a World Heritage Site in 1980 for its rare Northern White Rhinos, and with 22,000 elephants back then, they never seemed in danger. But the last rhino was seen some years ago. Poaching has wiped them out, and now with 95% of the elephants gone, and the killing continuing week after week, these giants are going the same way.

It's not a good neighbourhood for conservation.

More here.