Dying for Ivory

The latest casualty figures in the ancient war of man versus beast in Africa are in, and they look bad for both sides.

At least 25,000 elephants may have been slaughtered in Africa in 2011 — more than in any year since reporting began in 2002 — according to Kenneth Burnham, the statistician for Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants, an intergovernmental research agency.

Hundreds of humans have also died as a result of the elephant slaughter — not just from scattered maulings or tramplings, but from bullets fired by other humans fighting on the animals’ behalf.

Since the 1980s, under the mantle of conservation efforts and with funding from the European Union, governments, NGOs and private associations, African park guards have fought a rarely discussed low-level war against poachers. The conflict is becoming increasingly militarized, with both poachers and anti-poachers each justifying their belligerence as a response to the other’s. Read more.

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