BANGUI, Central African Republic, April 26 (UPI) -- More elephants are being killed in Central African Republic in the instability that has resulted from a coup last month, a conservationist organization said.
The World Wildlife Fund said Thursday it confirmed information that elephants were being poached near the Dzanga-Sangha protected areas.
The WWF said it also received word that elephant meat reportedly was being openly sold at markets in villages nearby.
"Due to the violence and chaos in the area, the exact number of elephants slaughtered is not known, however initial reports indicate it may be extensive," the organization said in a release. "The security situation is preventing ... staff from searching the dense forest for elephant carcasses."
The Dzanga-Sangha protected areas comprise a three-country park system that is home to one of the world's largest populations of forest elephants, Voice of America said.
Bas Huijbregts, WWF's policy chief for the region, told Voice of America the trouble began soon after the rebel coalition known as Seleka overran the government in March.
"Because of this power vacuum created, because of this civil war situation in the last few weeks, elephant poaching has dramatically increased," Huijbregts said.
Jim Leape, WWF director general, said in a statement the poaching is so severe that "no area is safe," including Dzanga-Sangha.
He and other conservation organizations urged leaders of the Central African Republic and its neighbors to "urgently join forces against this criminal activity that is also threatening the stability and economic development of their countries ... and together declare that poaching and illicit trafficking will not be tolerated."