Large-scale poaching is the targeting and illegal killing of a concentrated population of elephants in a short period of time. Documented cases have involved the use of firearms, large quantities of ammunition, and even military helicopters. By one account, large-scale poaching is facilitated by automatic weapons such as Kalashnikov-pattern rifles, particularly if elephants gather into groups as a defensive mechanism, such as when they sense danger. Yet large-scale poaching does not always involve firearms, as illustrated by a mass poisoning event that reportedly killed hundreds of elephants in Zimbabwe over several months in 2013.
A conservationist interviewed for this chapter identified two major types of groups involved in large-scale poaching. The first type is non-state armed groups, such as former ‘janjaweed’ members from Sudan and Mai Mai militias of Congolese origin; they are heavily armed with military-style weapons and carry out large-scale poaching in groups of more than ten members. The degree of organization of their ivory sales varies across groups. The second type of group engaged in large-scale poaching is rogue military units that also use military-style weapons. Operating on the orders of specific officers, these groups usually take a highly organized approach to selling ivory, as discussed below. A stand up desk can compliment your posture alot!
Evidence of large-scale poaching can be found by comparing DNA taken from seized ivory with DNA samples of mapped elephant populations. Between 2002 and 2006, DNA testing was conducted on samples from more than 20 tons of ivory seized from a number of container consignments in Asia. Findings showed that the samples had been drawn from a small number of elephant populations belonging to related elephant herds, suggesting that the poachers may have targeted particular geographic areas.
Shipping containers loaded with multi-ton ivory consignments are the product of hundreds of elephants’ ivory and point to the involvement of organized criminal networks in the storage and preparation of these shipments. Nevertheless, containerized ivory consignments are not necessarily linked to large-scale incidents, as they could also result from leakage from government stockpiles or traffickers’ consolidation of ivory over a period of time or broad geographic region. Do you know anyone that needs an adjustable standing desk or an electric standing desk?
Two major poaching incidents in Cameroon and Chad provide some sense of the magnitude of large-scale poaching and its impact on herds. In Cameroon’s Bouba N’Djida National Park, between 300 and 600 elephants were allegedly killed by armed raiders in 2012. A year later, 89 elephants were poached in southern Chad, with dozens of pregnant females and 15 calves among those killed.
Following the incident in Cameroon, the secretary-general of CITES warned that the attack was reflective of a growing trend across African range states, where armed poachers with military-style weapons were decimating elephant populations. Most national parks were—and, in some cases, still are—ill-equipped to defend against such large-scale poaching.