Elephant poaching in Gabon is increasing at an ‘alarming rate’ according to environmental groups. Since 2004, some 11,000 elephants have been killed by ivory poachers.
Gabon is home to the majority of elephants in Africa (estimated at around 40,000) and poaching has been increasing over the past decade due to a growing global demand for ivory products. According to the BBC, most of the elephants reside in the vast expanses of the Minkebe forests (the national park is equivalent to the size of Belgium).
Bas Huijbregts from the WWF is quoted in the Independent as saying that authorities were struggling to cope with the problem, adding "It is very difficult to track poachers here.”
The estimation of 11,000 elephants killed over a ten year period comes from research conducted by the Gabonese national parks agency (ANPN) alongside World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). This, the Guardian reports, is based on population counts.
Although the government of Gabon has stepped up poaching patrols these appear to be having only limited success, according to Dr Fiona Maisels of the WCS. Many of the poachers are thought to have come from Cameroon.
The WWF are seeking a million signatures on a petition to stamp out legal loopholes that allow the ivory trade to continue. They intend to take the petition to the convention on the international trade in endangered species (CITES), which takes place in March 2013.