Elephants Decimated in Congo Park; China Demand Blamed

– Entire species may disappear for transient human vanity.   My species truly embarrasses me.   We are not worthy to have the power we have over these innocent beasts.

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Since the beginning of this year, armed groups, soldiers, and poachers have killed 10 percent of the elephants in Congo’s troubled Virunga National Park—allegedly driven by rising Chinese demand for ivory—park officials say.

The announcement raises fears that elephants could disappear forever from Africa’s oldest and largest national park, which has recently made headlines for its gorilla murders.

Rangers plying the lawless central sector of Virunga have discovered the bodies of seven elephants in the past two weeks alone.

In one case they came upon Rwandan militia members hovering over the bodies of two elephants. The rangers managed to drive the men away before they could remove the animals’ tusks.

In all, 24 elephants are known to have been killed in Virunga so far this year.

“We believe that less than ten were killed last year,” said Samantha Newport, spokesperson for Virunga National Park. “Undoubtedly this year is a lot, lot worse. It’s catastrophic.”

(Earlier coverage: “17 Elephants Butchered for Ivory in African Park” [May 5, 2008].)

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