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Conservationists Want Greater Protection for Central African Elephants

The World Wide Fund for Nature say there will be no elephants left in Central Africa's Congo Basin within the next decade if more is not done to stop poaching.

Cameroon's Chamber of Commerce says logging companies have already lost more than $300 million in the global economic crisis.

That has led to more than 1,000 people losing their jobs. And bigger dangers for elephants.

In Southeast Cameroon, The World Wide Fund for Nature says workers laid off from timber firms are increasingly poaching elephants, with at least ten killed each month.

Cameroon was previously considered a relatively safe place for elephants in the Congo Basin where their population is thought to be around 13,000. But conservationists say those herds could be gone within a decade if more is not done to stop poaching.

Martin Tchamba heads the World Wide Fund for Nature's elephant conservation program in Cameroon. He says the dual threats of increasing deforestation and poaching for meat and ivory have led to disturbing declines in elephant populations.

He says the ivory trade they have uncovered stretches from West Africa to Asia.

Tchamba wants greater cooperation between governments in the Congo Basin to reinforce and better arm park rangers who are often outgunned and overwhelmed by increasingly sophisticated poachers.

Cameroon's 1994 wildlife protection law calls for prison terms of one- to three-years and fines of between $6,000 and $20,000 for anyone found in possession of protected species including elephants, lions, leopards, African grey parrots, chimpanzees, and gorillas.

Cameroon's minister of forestry and wildlife, Elvis Ngolle Ngolle, said, "We have been able to identify and to take to court and to seize various wildlife species from the hands of forestry operators who have been found with some wildlife species which are not supposed to be in their possession," he said.

Conservationists say poaching and deforestation have cut the world's elephant population by half over the last 30 years, with fewer than 140,000 elephants left worldwide.