Friday, 18 May 2018

‘Paradise and hell’: the battle to save the forest elephant

Gabon’s wild and beautiful rainforest is on the frontline against ivory poachers, part of international criminal networks that also fund terrorists

by Damian Carrington in Lopé national park, Gabon
Sat 12 May 2018 08.01 BST

Deep in the steamy rainforest of Gabon, a poaching gang’s night-time fire is smouldering and two long elephant tusks lie among the tangled roots. The axe that hacked them off lies nearby.
Just after dawn, the insect buzz and bird chatter is suddenly pierced by a whistle blast and camouflaged park guards burst out from their forest cover, swiftly pinning the poachers to the ground.

It is an exercise, part of training being given by the British army to Gabonese park guards. But the ongoing slaughter in Gabon is all too real: a dozen elephants are shot every day by heavily armed ivory poachers.

Gabon is the green jewel in the crown of the vast Congo rainforest, with 88% of the nation’s territory still covered in forest. Gabon also hosts 50-60% of the world’s remaining 45,000 forest elephants, the smaller, rarer cousin of the savannah elephant.

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