In these remote parts, facts are hard to come by — and the killers have proved elusive, apparently continuing their poaching even after the Cameroonian government sent in the military on March 1.
What is clear is that the poachers have been sweeping in on horseback from Chad or Sudan. They are heavily armed and highly organized. Confrontations with the military have left at least one soldier dead so far.
What is also clear is that the slaughter — which is unprecedented even in the context of a recent increase in wildlife poaching — has as its ultimate destination China and, to a lesser degree, Thailand and Egypt (where Chinese are the main customers of pilfered ivory from elephant tusks.)
Demand for ivory from China “is the leading driver behind the illegal trade in ivory today,” said Tom Milliken, an elephant and rhino expert for Traffic, an organization that monitors the global wildlife trade, in a telephone conference organized by the WWF this week.
For elephants, 2011 was the worst year on record. Now add the hundreds killed in one national park in Cameroon alone, within just the last two months, and you get a sense of the urgency of the problem.