Washington, Dec 12 (ANI): New estimates suggest that the population of elephants in Central Africa's Sahel region, has gone down alarmingly, from an estimated 3,000 in 2006 to about 1,000 animals currently.
Over the past 2 years, civil unrest in Chad has resulted in the killing of several guards at the Zakouma National Park in Sahel, resulting in difficulties in conservation of the elephants there.
Ivory poachers, taking advantage of the situation, use automatic weapons to decimate elephant populations, particularly when herds venture seasonally outside of the park.
Until this recent spate in poaching, elephant numbers have rebounded from an estimated 1,100 in 1985 to as many as 3,500 in early 2006.
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) first sounded the alarm two years ago when WCS researcher and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Mike Fay noticed a steep drop in the region's elephant numbers during his "Mega Flyover" of some of Africa's last wild places.
Additional research, including radio-collaring and tracking individual animals, revealed that poaching was once again decimating these herds.
"Zakouma is a last stand for elephants in the Sahel," said Fay. "It's incredibly heartbreaking to stand before a dead elephant missing only its tusks. How can we stand idly by and watch this population continue to get slaughtered because of simple human greed?" he added.
However, safety conditions have recently improved somewhat and the WCS is optimistic that it can increase on-the-ground elephant conservation work in and around Zakouma to protect the remaining population.
"The situation in Zakouma is dire, but there is still time to save the park's remaining elephants, provided we can marshal the forces we need to stop poaching," said WCS President and CEO Dr. Steven E. Sanderson.
"We need to continue to work closely with Zakouma's dedicated park guards and give them what they need to do their jobs, while our own field staff provide aerial reconnaissance and technical support," he added. (ANI)