A wildlife group says poachers in Cameroon have slaughtered at least 200 elephants for their tusks in what appears to be an unprecedented massacre.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare on Thursday accused an armed gang from Sudan of killing the elephants in the Bouba Ndjida National Park, near the border with Chad.
Spokesman Adrian Hiel said the size and scope of the killing spree, which began in mid-January, is a great concern.
"The number of bodies and infrastructure you need to have to kill that many elephants and take that much ivory is really, really worrying. That’s a big operation over a lot of territory,” he said.
Hiel said huge demand for ivory in the Far East, particularly from Vietnam and China, is fueling poaching by sophisticated criminal syndicates. He said armed gangs are targeting elephants that are easiest to get -- those that roam freely in West and Central African countries.
International wildlife groups warn that the practice is decimating elephant populations, as well the the number of rhinos that are illegally hunted for their prized horns.
The activists urged governments to address the demand for ivory from Asian countries and to properly equip and train park security officials to guard against well-armed poachers.
Wildlife activists say a record amount of illegal ivory -- 23 tons -- was seized last year.