LIBREVILLE, Gabon, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- The World Wildlife Fund has announced an international campaign against the increasing poaching of elephants in central Africa.
The announcement was made in Libreville in Gabon by Pauwel de Wachter, the coordinator of Tridom national parks which include Minkebe in Gabon and Dja and Odzala parks in the Republic of Congo.
"The campaign should last for 1 1/2 years but it will continue until the battle is won," De Wachter said in an interview with China's Xinhua news agency.
In the Central African Republic elephant numbers have plummeted from 80,000 in the early 1980s to just a few thousand, he said, with the same being true for the Democratic Republic of Congo.
"It's estimated that between 80 percent to 90 percent of the DR Congo elephants disappeared in the last 20 to 25 years," he said.
An estimated 50 percent of the elephants in the Republic of Congo have been lost in the last 10 years, but the worst decline has been seen in Gabon, he said.
Gabonese officials have said about 11,000 elephants were killed from 2004 to 2012 in Minkebe national park.
High prices being paid for ivory are at the root of the poaching increase, De Wachter said.
"The poachers use very sophisticated weapons. Poaching has become a big business and there's no forest where we cannot find poachers," he said. "They are everywhere.
"There's need to conduct regular patrols in all the remaining forests where there are elephant populations. There's need to prevent the poachers from entering there. We must dismantle the networks of ivory buyers because it's very strong in the sub-region," he said.
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