- Uganda: Poachers kill elephants in 'gruesome massacre' at national park
By HENRY WASSWA
Associated Press Writer
KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) A gang of ivory poachers killed six adult
elephants and one calf in a "gruesome massacre" in Queen Elizabeth
National Park, the government said Friday.
A wildlife conservation group said the poaching incident was the
inevitable outcome of a recent U.N. decision allowing some African
countries to sell their stockpiles of elephant ivory.
After killing the elephants March 25, the poachers used acid to remove
their tusks, said Uganda Wildlife Authority spokeswoman Barbara Musoke.
"This was the most gruesome massacre of elephants we have ever seen,"
Musoke said. "The bullets must have been fired from modern guns, not
those from the local poachers. The acid helped them to pull the tusks
right from the skulls instead of cutting them half way using cutters."
It was the first reported case of ivory poaching in Uganda in more than
three years, she said.
Wildlife experts have warned that a U.N. decision allowing three
southern African nations to sell more than 60 tons of stockpiled
elephant ivory would increase poaching throughout the continent.
The U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species voted
in November to allow Botswana, Namibia and South Africa to sell
stockpiles of elephant tusks worth $5 million.
The stockpiles came from animals culled by the nations to keep the
population under control and from animals dying of natural causes.
The nations argue that funds derived from those sales can be reinvested
in wildlife conservation.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare said Friday that any ivory
trade "creates a market for illegally obtained ivory and thus
"An incident such as this in Uganda epitomizes the difficulties
wildlife law enforcement authorities such as UWA are confronted with in
their endeavors to protect elephants," said Jason Bell, the fund's
regional director for southern Africa.
The 765-square-mile Queen Elizabeth National Park, on Uganda's border
with eastern Congo, is home to about 1,000 elephants, more than the
elephant population in Uganda's 10 other parks combined, Musoke said.
Thousands of elephants in the park were slaughtered during the 1970s by
Idi Amin's soldiers and the 1980s by rebel armies.
The herds were recovering when fighting resumed in eastern Congo in
Meanwhile, game wardens in neighboring Kenya said Friday they
apprehended a poacher involved in killing two giraffes earlier this
The giraffes were killed Tuesday by poachers from adjacent Tanzania who
wanted to sell the meat, said Mabruk Mzee, an assistant warden at the
Kenya Wildlife Service.
The Kenyan service reports a marked increase in the poaching of large
animals like giraffe, buffalo, zebra, eland and gazelle for sale to
local butcher shops.
Uganda and Kenya have outlawed big-game hunting, while Tanzania allows
restricted hunting for a hefty fee.
- No easy answers to the poaching issues.
Picture yourself as a poacher who may have a family at home that is
struggling to survive and has no opportunity to earn a living other
than poaching. Would you allow your family to starve by laying down
your rifle due to anti-poaching laws? Also, if elephants are
destroying your crops, should you allow them to go unfettered?
Then, how do you curb demand? Bush meat is highly prized in many
Libreville restaurants and openly available at the markets.
I, now, see it somewhat like Dr. Albert Schweitzer and Dr. Carl
Jung. Schweitzer believed in the sanctity of all life. He made a
fetish of not taking one life even if it was one ant on the road. He
would stop to allow the ant to pass. Jung was more selective in that
he believed that warm-blooded species deserved the sanctity of life
while cold-blooded species were little more than vegetables.
Certainly, elephants, chimps, gorillas and many other African
species should be protected from extinction. Chimps, in fact, have
about 98% of our same DNA and elephants are one of the most social
and caring species of all.
During my trip last year to Gabon, I viewed gorillas, elephants,
monkeys and other fauna. The gorillas were especially fearful of man
and for good reason. To them, when they see man, they normally lose
one of their family by a bullet to the brain or heart.
A few recommendations:
1. Set aside huge mega-tracts of land that would be for animals
only. No humans allowed other than those without weapons. Any human
found in that area with a weapon could be shot on sight by tract
2. Anyone (including the "fashionable" restaurants) selling
prohibited bush meat such as gorilla, chimps and elephants would
face a long jail sentence. Same with ivory.
3. Jobs need to be created to provide employment alternatives for
the poachers. Many could be guides for ecotourists. International
aid projects for the others.