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article imagePoaching threatens Mali's rare desert elephants

By Kesavan Unnikrishnan     Oct 10, 2015 in Environment
Ninety of Mali’s 300 desert elephants have been killed during the past year as ivory poachers exploit a security vacuum created by an Islamic insurgency in the deserts near the city of Timbuktu.
Mali's desert elephants are the most northerly elephants in Africa, a remnant of the vast herds that once occupied an area of West Africa stretching from the Atlantic forests to the Sahara.They travel across an area of 12,355 square miles (32,000 square kilometers) in the deserts of Mali every year and are one of the last two desert herds in the world. The other is in Namibia.
Threatened by poachers during the 1980s, the Malian government had run a highly successful joint anti-poaching unit involving government foresters working with young volunteers in the local communities. Most of the forest rangers have fled the region since the start of Islamic insurgency in 2011. U.N. peacekeeping mission MINUSMA estimates more than 90 elephants have been killed since late 2014.
Mamadou Haidara of the national conservation and wildlife authority told Voice of America.
When the extremists lost power, young men found themselves without work, rejected by their communities and sometimes even unable to return to their villages. Some went into organized crime, such as poaching.This year we have seen an increase in the numbers of elephants killed. If this continues very soon there will be no elephants left.
Namib desert, the only other location where desert elephants are currently found is also not free from hunters. A meat-for-votes scandal erupted last year when trophy hunting permits were issued for six desert elephants to be killed for meat in exchange for villager votes in favor of the ruling party.
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