Kalashnikov-bearing men slaughtered at least 26 elephants in the Dzanga Bai World Heritage Site in the Central African Republic on May 6 the WWF said, urging the country to protect the animals after President Francois Bozize was overthrown in March.
The 17 gunmen killed the animals in an area known locally as “village of elephants,” the WWF Central Africa Programme Office said in an e-mailed statement today. Among the dead at the site where as many as 200 elephants gather every day were four calves, the conservation organization said. The gunmen said they were government forces, the WWF said.
“The killing has started,” Jim Leape, WWF director general, said in the statement. “The Central African Republic must act immediately to secure this unique World Heritage Site.”
In March a group of 50 horsemen from Sudan killed at least 89 elephants in neighboring Chad while 300 were killed in an attack in Cameroon the year earlier, according to the WWF.
“The events in Dzanga Bai are a vivid reminder of the existential threat faced by forest elephants in central Africa,” the WWF said. “Populations of the species have plummeted 62 percent over the past 10 years.”