Elephants of Mali: Poaching on the Rise (Mali)


L’Essor Bamako

Date Published

According to the Secretary General of the UN, terrorist groups are involved in ivory trafficking to finance their activities

The perils of Gourma’s elephants intensifies, and concern is felt by, in addition to national authorities, the Secretary General of the UN Ban ki-Moon. In his latest report on the situation of our country, the UN chief highlights the actions of peacekeepers to protect endangered pachyderms. The UN report estimates that 57 elephants have been killed out of a population estimated at 350, in the current first half of 2015. Eleven other elephants were killed during the last quarter of the year in the area. “It seems that the extremists and terrorist groups have sought
more actively to find new sources of funding for their activities in northern Mali, focusing in particular ivory trafficking,” said the secretary general of the UN.

The occupation of certain areas of Timbuktu by terrorists and hostile armed groups exposes the elephants in this part of the country to poaching. Insecurity prevents the agents of Water and Forestry, who are ill-equipped, to venture there. Banzena is the area where the animals stay, beyond the control of the authorities.

The poachers are taking advantage of the insecurity in the area to decimate elephants which nevertheless is yet protected by a project. As part of this project, the state, with the support of the NGO Wild Foundation, had invested heavily to develop water points on the passage of elephants. The project also hired local agents to monitor elephants using GPS belts and reporting any poaching activities. The crisis now prevents these officers from doing their job.

The Gourma region is located between the Niger River and the border with Burkina Faso. It is classified as semi-arid and arid areas. The flora and fauna, dominated by a relic population of 350 elephants, has had to adapt to these difficult conditions. Gourma is also comprised of agropastoral areas most conducive to the northern part of Mali. It contains lots of ponds and pastures.

To meet their needs, estimated at 150 kg of forage and over 100 liters of water per day, elephants have developed a migration route for 600 km in a north/south direction between two large parking areas. Elephants in the reserve, the Sahel in Burkina Faso, and the reserve of Gourma in Mali are poached for their ivory. Last October, a regular source of bush Gourma, ensured we have counted more than 40 elephant carcasses killed by bullets and deprived of their ivory. Another source indicated that the number of elephants killed exceeded one hundred.

Poachers benefit from the situation of insecurity in the area, since northern regions are occupied by extremist and terrorist groups. This activity yields big money. The ivory was fetching 300,000 CFA francs per kilo, ten years ago. One elephant can provide 30 kg of ivory. The temptation is strong and can be exercised if the animals do not enjoy protection of state services. One can imagine the fortune qu’empochent poachers shooting down one pachyderm.

The Service of Water and Forests has requested the assistance of MINUSMA, organizing joint patrols to limit the damage.

Under the banner of protecting the elephants, Police said the MINUSMA have conducted patrols in the circle of Douentza to support local authorities. These have deployed 50 additional rangers in the Mopti region, welcomes Ban Ki-Moon in his report.