Poaching gangs reportedly targeting elephants in African reserve

May 9, 2013 at 5:37 PM
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BANGUI, Central African Republic, May 9 (UPI) -- Forest elephants in the Central African Republic have become a new target for poaching gangs, the World Wildlife Fund reported.

An unknown number of elephants have been killed at a world heritage site in the Central African Republic by heavily armed poachers who used a scientific observation platform to shoot the animals, the WWF said.

The WWF issued a warning Monday of individuals with heavy-caliber rifles were seen entering the Dzanga-Ndoki National Park.

Park guards told WWF they saw armed men using the observation platform to shoot the animals in an area called Dzanga-bai -- the "village of elephants" -- where up to 200 of the animals would congregate to drink.

The platform is used by scientists and tourists to observe the animals.

"We know that there was a lot of Kalashnikov fire over the last couple of days, and into the night," WWF worker Anna Feistner, who has been based in the area for three years, told the BBC Friday.

"We now know the guys have left. Our belief is that elephants have been killed but we don't yet know the scale."

Feistner said she believed the raiders were Sudanese ivory poachers taking advantage of political disorder in the Central African Republic.

African countries have seen a serious increase in the illegal killing of elephants and the amount of seized ivory is said to be at the highest level in 16 years.

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