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Elephants slaughtered from the sky

January 11th, 2013
01:30 PM ET

By Samuel Burke, CNN

The slaughter of elephants and rhinos is happening on such a massive scale in Africa that the animals’ very existence is threatened.

Just this week poachers murdered an entire elephant family in Kenya. Eleven elephants were shot and killed from a helicopter – the country’s single worst slaughter on record.

These majestic animals are regularly killed using machine guns from helicopters – their tusks often used to make ivory trinkets.

The United States government says the butchering is not the result of excessive hunting, but rather organized crime, with black market ivory and horn worth some eight-billion dollars a year.

Stopping it is no longer only about protecting the planet's natural resources.

“It is also a national security issue, a public health issue and an economic security issue,” outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said. Killing off these animals will affect the tourism dollars to Africa in the long term.

Many people incorrectly believe the poaching crisis had subsided, but in reality, there has been a major spike in the number of poaching incidents.

The New York Times’ Jeffrey Gettleman has been documenting this mass slaughter for years and attributes the spike to economic growth in Asia.

Even though many Asian economies are becoming more modern, their citizens still adhere to traditional beliefs.

“In many parts of Asia, ivory and rhino horn powder are valued for ceremonial purposes, for religious purposes, cultural purposes. And that is creating this huge demand for ivory and rhinoceros horn across Africa,” Gettleman told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an interview Wednesday.

“It's like the war on drugs. There's such a big demand coming from outside Africa for these products and the price of ivory now has reached the stratospheric levels of $1,000 per pound.”

The Vietnamese believe rhino horn can cure cancer, which is why they are willing to spend whatever it takes to get their hands on ground-up rhino horn powder.
Rhino horn is now worth $65,000 a kilogram, which is more than cocaine and more even than the price of gold.

The criminals are getting better at avoiding detection. Gettlemen has even heard of ivory being tied to the anchor of a ship at port to avoid custom authorities when they board the ship and start opening up containers and looking for illicit goods

“They are trying to use the ivory to fund their mayhem,” he said. “Ivory has become so valuable that it's becoming a conflict resource.”

Lives are also being lost in the effort to protect the animals. Park rangers, oftentimes without any type of military training, are up against poachers who are also experienced soldiers, Gettleman’s reporting has uncovered.

“[The rangers] don't necessarily know a lot about infantry tactics. And they're up against hardened soldiers who've been drawn into this ivory trade because the profits are so high.”

Rebel groups, such as the Lord's Resistance Army that originated in Uganda, have now gravitated up to Congo and they too are slaughtering elephants, Gettleman reports.

And Ugandan, South Sudanese and Congolese soldiers often leave their military duties in pursuit of this new blood diamond.

“A lot of these are American allies. The American government is giving these armies money and training. And on the side, they're going off and poaching elephants.”

Uganda’s President hasn’t seen #Kony2012

CNN’s Juliet Fuisz produced this piece for television.

Filed under:  Latest Episode • Poaching
soundoff (71 Responses)
  1. kerry

    Save the elephants, move them out of Africa. The murders are not going to stop until they are all gone. Plenty of open space in Texas for them. They would be protected and have space to roam.

    January 11, 2013 at 1:57 pm | Reply
  2. Katy

    What can we as citizens do about this? How can we help stop this?

    January 11, 2013 at 6:32 pm | Reply
    • Save All Elephants

      You can join advocates on – Welcome

      January 12, 2013 at 2:07 am | Reply
  3. AJ

    It is an absolute disgrace and a reflection on the people of Vietnam and China who are the reason this barbarity continues.

    January 11, 2013 at 7:00 pm | Reply
  4. Benny

    @AJ, elephant ivory trafficking is also a big business in the US and Europe. Trafficking exotic endangered species is bound to happen very often in rich countries, it's the same for drugs.

    January 11, 2013 at 9:21 pm | Reply
    • Save All Elephants

      Very much the same the same for drugs because poaching/smuggling is run by the same cartels, with a lot less risk and with much lighter sentences.

      January 12, 2013 at 2:11 am | Reply
  5. Sam dindi

    Save the rhinos and elephants from extinction

    watch and share the kifaru twakupenda(we kove our rhino)song

    January 12, 2013 at 1:34 am | Reply
  6. ladyz

    boycott Asia-just don't travel there. kill their tourist industry. tell every Asian what you think about them,. give them a bad reputation so that people, might change things from the inside.

    January 12, 2013 at 2:18 am | Reply
  7. Tom

    Put the bounty on poachers X2 the price of a set of tusks! Problem solved! If they can video record the shooting of the animals, they can video record the shooting of the poachers! Money makes the world go round!

    January 16, 2013 at 9:31 pm | Reply
  8. Aylin

    This is a brutal and inhuman action! People kill these elephants are cold blooded monsters. Those Chinese people who buy them are main culprits and they are also hidden monsters. Be human people not monsters!!! The policies should be stricken to protect these peaceful and lovely animals. These monsters should be prisoned for long time! Chinese government is well trained to keep people in labor camps for trivial reasons. This is a big hit on the face of morality and ethics of humanity; why does not Chinese government put those monsters in labor camps instead of ordinary and poor citizens. Kenya needs to have better and bigger security measures to catch and prison the monsters live among them as well!

    January 17, 2013 at 7:07 am | Reply
  9. Andy

    I'm supporting this new NGO dedicated to elephant protection, the Elephant Advocacy League (EAL). Some of the guys come from the security sector and they're doing very cool things like security surveys in heavily poached areas and training anti-poaching. They collaborate with the top elephant experts in the world.

    January 19, 2013 at 10:59 am | Reply
  10. Dave K

    People, your words may be sincere, but they are useless. You must DO something. Join the fight by pulling out your wallet, writing to leaders, etc.

    February 7, 2013 at 12:00 am | Reply
  11. emergency services

    You really make it appear really easy along with your presentation but I find this topic to be really one thing which I think I would by no means understand. It kind of feels too complicated and extremely broad for me. I'm looking ahead on your next submit, I'll attempt to get the hold of it!

    February 9, 2013 at 9:54 pm | Reply
  12. Vivek Krishnamoorthy

    Cruelty to the fullest! What a Shame!

    March 15, 2013 at 12:06 pm | Reply
  13. Fernando Gallegos

    damn asians

    March 15, 2013 at 4:43 pm | Reply
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    March 22, 2013 at 5:36 pm | Reply
  15. Sandra LeVin

    Donate to IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) – to stop this abominable practice.

    Kill the poachers and hang them in their villages for all to see.

    March 22, 2013 at 5:49 pm | Reply
  16. chris

    Could we have some accurate journalism. Tragic as it is, there is no evidence that they were shot from a helicopter.

    August 7, 2013 at 11:18 am | Reply
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