|An elephant family in Mali|
Africa's elephant poaching has been reaching unprecedented levels in the past years. Much of the poaching activities have occurred in Central and East Africa to feed the growing demand of ivory in China and finance militant groups like Al-Shabaab, the Janjaweed, and Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) to finance their crimes against humanity. But now, this ongoing epidemic has recently been reported in Mali where nineteen elephants have fallen victims to poaching over the past month. Their deaths have been blamed on poaching by rebellious jihadis and other rebel insurgents connected to the cross-Sahara smuggling syndicate. Conservationists indicated that there are 350 to 500 elephants believed to be living in the country, and are under an increasing threat not only from poachers but also climate change and decreased rainfall. The elephants' home in the region of Gourma is located in a portion of Mali where there is no government control and has been rife with activities from Al-Qaeda and other extremist organizations. According to Nomba Ganame, a Malian representative of the WILD Foundation, the slaughter in the past five weeks indicated the first example of extensive poaching in the country. He further added that in 2012, several young men were attracted by high stipends offered by Al-Qaeda and other groups and took up arms in response. However, when they found themselves rejected from their communities, they turned to organized crime. At a parliamentary conference in the capital city of Bamako, a member of the government's nature conservation group called for military police to send in military aid. The reason is due to shortage of staff and vehicles to patrol a 32,000-kilometer area. Mr. Ganame asserted that WILD Foundation had offered young men an "honest alternative" to joining the jihad through an income supplementation program. This program is known to give part-time work for 500 farmers and shepherds near the elephants' migration trail. Their job includes outlining the animals' movement and an intention to resolve human-elephant conflicts. One 40-year-old farmer from Gourma's Hombori area stated that the Al-Qaeda had tried to enlist him several times in 2012 as an organizer with a monthly income of 300,000 CFA francs. He further added that Wild Foundation gave him a motorcycle for his daily rounds to watch elephants, fuel, and food. In his own words, the farmer stated that looking after Mali's elephants gave his life meaning. Furthermore, the program changed his perspective towards Al-Qaeda whom he says are "liars."
|Map of Mali showing the region of Gourma where the elephants live.|
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