Congo: Poachers Mass Murder 22 Encircled Elephants Attempting to Protect Their Young

by Apr 2, 2012Conservation Threats, Elephants, Ivory, Wildlife News

African Parks regrets to announce that 22 elephants have been killed in Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the past ten days. Garamba, which shelters an estimated 2,000-3,000 elephants (one of the biggest remaining elephant populations in central Africa) has until now avoided the elephant poaching onslaught taking place across west and central Africa.

Park management was alerted to the poaching incident when one of five collared elephants, which are monitored daily by satellite, was observed to have remained stationery for 24 hours. A ground patrol sent to investigate discovered six dead elephant, including two babies, grouped together in the southern section of the park. Unusually, the genitalia of the adult male elephants had been removed along with the tusks.

Over the following three days intensive aerial surveillance was undertaken, during which time 1,415km was flown over the park to ascertain if further poaching had taken place. During these patrol flights another two groups of carcasses involving 13 elephants were located. Ground patrols involving more than 70 rangers subsequently located another three carcasses, bringing the total number of elephants killed to 22 – eighteen adults and four calves.

All 22 elephants are believed to have been killed within a day or two of one another.

This is the biggest elephant poaching incident at Garamba since African Parks assumed management of the park in November 2005, and is serious cause for concern. Our initial investigations suggest that the poaching was the work of a professional group possibly numbering ten or more. Indications are that the elephants were encircled before being shot, as the carcasses were found grouped together. The killings had been achieved with one or two

direct shots to the head as opposed to being sprayed with bullets, again indicating the work of professionals. Cartridges found at the scene confirm that AK-47 assault rifles were used in the attacks.

African Parks’ management will do everything in its power to bring the perpetrators to account. A substantial reward has been offered for information leading to arrests and local villagers are being interviewed to source information about the identity and location of the poachers. Constant aerial monitoring is also being undertaken to prevent a repeat of the attacks.

Map of Garamba indicating where the 22 elephant carcasses were discovered and the aerial surveillance paths flown in the past ten days.

As Garamba is located in a politically volatile region, with armed forces from a number of countries as well as the Lord’s Resistance Army present in the region, follow-up operations will be difficult. However, as with last year’s elephant poaching incident at Zakouma National Park in Chad, we are determined to demonstrate that poaching does not pay. Once the incident has been fully investigated, a further update will be provided, including additional measures that will be put in place to avoid a repeat of such a tragic event.

For further information please contact:

Jane Edge – communications director –

Luis Arranz – Garamba Park Manager –

Peter Fearnhead – CEO –