There is currently no government presence in the Gourma but the local people are still there and our work continues. Since the elephant death in January (see blog post Note on the poaching incident at Insegueren, Mali) there were two more killings in May, and in all cases our community information networks have discovered the identity of the perpetrators and the people who ordered the killings. They have also discovered the identity of the thief and forced the return of stolen solar panels from one of the Banzena boreholes. The local communities have achieved great things but have requested armed backup so that the individuals responsible for elephant deaths are arrested.
In an encounter with a rebel group, the community leaders prevented the project camels from being taken by explaining that these were necessary for protecting pasture and other natural resources. The rebels thought this was a good idea and left them.
Meanwhile community leaders have resolved to transmit the following messages far and wide, including rebel and military leaders:
- Those who attack the elephants, attack and steal from the people of Mali
- The ivory of the Mali elephants is of poor quality and little commercial value, therefore, their slaughter is a useless crime
- The Mali elephants have a greater value alive: ecologically and for tourism
So far we have stemmed elephant poaching but we need to be prepared for the time when an offensive is launched to retake the north of the country. War is lethal for elephants, particularly when combined with the high demand for ivory in Asian markets, as the sale of ivory is used to buy arms. We need to act to prevent elephant poaching taking a hold in Mali, and thus avoid incidents such as the 350 elephants killed in Bouba Ndjida.
We have consulted widely to devise a strategy to cope with this eventuality. At the moment we have community information networks throughout the north of the Gourma and are working to establish similar systems in the south, so that the whole of the elephant range is covered. We now need to deploy an elite armed anti-poaching rapid response unit that can follow up on information provided by the communities and arrest the individuals concerned. The Malian government has pledged to provide the personnel, the firearms and the ammunition, while WILD is raising money to cover a vehicle, equipment and training.
It’s not too late to help and every dollar counts! We thank those of you who have expressed concern for these elephants and have donated to their cause. Donate now to protect this unique herd of desert elephants!