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Poachers Shoot Down Seven Ugandan Elephants

KAMPALA, Uganda, April 4, 2003 (ENS) - Seven elephants were killed by ivory poachers in Queen Elizabeth National, the Uganda Wildlife Authority reported today. The six adult elephants and one calf were taken in the first poaching incident in three years, wildlife officials said.

Uganda Wildlife Authority Executive Director Dr. Arthur Mugisha said the agency "condemns this poaching incident" and is investigating to determine "who the perpetrators are and where the ivory is destined."

Old male elephant in Uganda's Murchison Falls National Park (Photo courtesy Life in Africa) Uganda's elephants were slowly recovering from the slaughter they suffered during the civil wars, when they were used as moving targets for artillery - fired during the 1970s by Idi Amin's soldiers and in the 1980s by rebel armies.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) says poachers are once again active because of a decision made last November by governments at the UN Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting to permit three Southern African countries – Namibia, Botswana and South Africa – to sell 60 metric tons of their ivory stocks. The ivory was collected the governments from culled animals and those that died of natural causes.

The CITES decision was criticized by conservationists who warned that the legal ivory trade would be used by poachers and smugglers to mask their illegal activities.

“IFAW has in the past and continues to argue that any ivory trade, including one-off stockpile sales, creates a market for the laundering of illegally obtained ivory - and thus facilitates poaching,” said Jason Bell, IFAW regional director for Southern Africa. “An incident such as this in Uganda epitomises the difficulties that wildlife law enforcement authorities such as UWA are confronted with in their endeavours to protect elephants and prevent trans-boundary trade."

After killing the elephants March 25, Uganda Wildlife Authority spokeswoman Barbara Musoke told AP that the poachers used acid to remove their tusks.

The 765 square mile Queen Elizabeth National Park, on Uganda's border with eastern Congo, is inhabited by some 1,000 elephants, more than those in all other Ugandan parks combined, Musoke said.

IFAW says it has supported wildlife conservation and anti-poaching efforts in Queen Elizabeth and Kidepo Valley national parks for over 10 years by increasing capacity for law enforcement through procurement of field equipment and vehicles, establishment of security surveillance outposts and maintenance of roads.

In Kenya, Uganda's neighbor to the east, wildlife authorities followed a tip from a local residents Thursday and caught suspected poachers in possession of two giraffe carcasses and snares used to trap the animals. The suspects were arrested and booked at Ngong police station.

Giraffe browses in Kenya (Photo courtesy Kenya Wildlife Service) The Kenya Wildlife Service says that in recent months poachers have been targeting large herbivores such as giraffes, buffaloes, zebras, elands and gazelles, "for commercial purposes" in Kenya.

They use a combination of crude weapons such as snares and arrows, and firearms for big game such as elephants, the service explained. The poached meat is sold both locally and transported concealed in vehicles, and by other means to butcheries in Nairobi and other towns. Trophies such as elephant tusks and hides are probably sold to dealers.

To contain the poachers, the Kenya Wildlife Service has intensified security through foot and vehicle patrols.

Now headed by former IFAW regional director for East Africa, Michael Wamithi, the service "welcomes and encourages the full participation of the local community in combating this heinous practise that threatens our national wildlife resources," Wamithi said.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2003. All Rights Reserved.

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