Saturday, April 28, 2012

African poaching surges on Asian affluence

(Reuters) - The hit job was done by professionals who swooped over their quarry in a helicopter before opening fire.

The scene beneath the rotor blades would have been chilling: panicked mothers shielding their young, hair-raising screeches and a mad scramble through the blood-stained bush as bullets rained down from the sky.

When the shooting was over, 22 elephants lay dead, one of the worst such killings in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo in living memory.

"It's been a long time since we've seen something like this," said Dr Tshibasu Muamba, head of international cooperation for the Congolese state conservation agency, ICCN.

After the slaughter in Garamba National Park the killers set about removing the animals' tusks and genitals. The grim booty was likely smuggled through South Sudan or Uganda, which form part of an "Ivory Road" linking Africa to Asia.

Elephant and rhino poaching is surging, conservationists say, an illegal piece of Asia's scramble for African resources, driven by the growing purchasing power of the region's newly affluent classes.

In South Africa, nearly two rhinos a day are being killed to meet demand for the animal's horn, which is worth more than its weight in gold. More are being killed each week now than were being taken on an annual basis a decade ago. Read More