One of Africa’s oldest national parks is under attack “from all fronts,” its director said Friday after 68 elephants were slaughtered in two months by poachers, some of whom shot them from helicopters.
Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo is under constant assault by renegade Congolese soldiers, gunmen from South Sudan and others. And this is just a slice of the poaching carnage: International wildlife regulators say 20,000 elephants were killed in Africa alone in 2013.
The Johannesburg-based African Parks group, which manages Garamba, said since mid-April, the 1,900-square-mile park has faced an onslaught from several bands of poachers who have already killed 4 percent of its elephants.
“The situation is extremely serious,” Garamba park manger Jean-Marc Froment said in the statement. “The park is under attack on all fronts.”
Conservationists say a thriving ivory market in Asia is helping to fuel the worst poaching epidemic of African elephants in decades.
A 2012 census found just 2,000 elephants in Garamba Park, down from 20,000 in the 1960s.
Afghans begin presidential runoff voting
Kabul, Afghanistan – Afghans headed to the polls today in a presidential runoff between two candidates who both promise to improve ties with the West and combat corruption as they confront a powerful Taliban insurgency and preside over the withdrawal of most foreign troops by the end of the year.
Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani, the head of the election commission, officially opened today’s runoff at 7 a.m. local time by casting his vote.
The runoff is between former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and ex-World Bank official and former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, after neither secured the 50 percent margin needed to win in the first round on April 5.
Security was tightened ahead of the vote, with security forces erecting new checkpoints, searching cars and banning trucks from the streets of the capital after the Taliban warned people to stay away from the polls.
Thai military ends nationwide curfew
Bangkok – Thailand’s military government announced that it has fully lifted a nationwide curfew it imposed after seizing power last month, saying there is no threat of violence and that tourism needs to be revived.
Political protests and criticism of the coup, however, remain banned by the junta, which said a return to elected civilian rule cannot be expected for at least 15 months.
The curfew had earlier been reduced to four hours from seven hours and had been lifted in several resort areas popular with tourists after complaints from the tourism industry over the financial damage it was causing.