Ivory: Ugandan army suspected of elephant slaughter

Park officials, scientists and Congolese authorities suspect that the Ugandan army might be behind a recent slaughter of elephants for their ivory, The New York Times reported.

Twenty-two elephants, including several babies, were found dead in the savanna, some killed by a single bullet to the head. Their tusks were taken, but their meat was left untouched, something that subsistence poachers usually partake in.

Guards at the Garamba National Park spotted a Ugandan military helicopter hovering low over the park several days later, said The Times. The park officials believe the military killed the elephants by helicopter and took away millions of dollars' worth of ivory.

According to conversation groups, poachers are killing tens of thousands of elephants a year, and the underground ivory trade is becoming increasingly militarized. Groups like Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army, Al Shabaab and Darfur's janjaweed are all using ivory to fund their armed conflicts, said The Times.

More on GlobalPost: Gabon burns 5 tons of illegal ivory

Armies with partnerships with the United States, including the Ugandan military, the Congolese army and South Sudan's military, have also been implicated in the poaching and trade of ivory.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare estimates that roughly 100 elephants are killed each day, according to a Vanity Fair article.

Vanity Fair noted, "During the great elephanticide of the 1970s and 1980s, Africa’s elephant population was cut from an estimated 1.3 million to some 600,000, and Kenya’s elephant population went from 120,000 to 15,000. (It is now about twice that.) At the height of the slaughter, it is believed, 70,000 elephants a year were being killed continent-wide."

The World Wildlife Fund said nearly 23 metric tons of ivory were seized in 2011, an amount that represents 2,500 elephants.

More on GlobalPost: Time to ban ivory for good?