100 ELEPHANTS LEFT?
Elephants hit hard in Ivorian war.
By Elizabeth Blunt BBC News.
Many Ivorian elephants may have left the countryAmong the sufferers in Ivory Coast's civil war have been the elephants which originally gave the country its name. In 1980, the biggest concentration was in the Tai forest near the Liberia border - some 3,000 elephants.
By 2002 - the last attempt to count elephants - there were fewer than 100 left. Now, no-one knows. With a peace plan to reunite the country going ahead, the government is beginning to think how to protect its remaining elephant population. The lack of elephants in Ivory Coast has been a sensitive issue for years.
Ivory poaching could be on the increase in the region, experts warnThe Tai forest area is in government hands, but is the stamping ground of some of the armed militia groups which support President Laurent Gbagbo. The other main concentration of elephants is in the Comoe National Park in the north-east, near the border with Burkina Faso. That lies in rebel territory, so government wildlife protection staff currently have no access to it.
Ivory Coast's head of wildlife told Reuters news agency this week that since elephants are shy creatures and hate disturbance and noise, many of them have probably left the country and crossed into neighbouring countries. But other wildlife experts suggested this might be wishful thinking.
Even if elephants have been vanishing from Comoe, a spokesman for the environment ministry in Burkina Faso said there had been no sign of any major arrivals of Ivorian elephants.
What forest guards had reported, he said, was an increase in the number of Ivorian poachers coming across the border since the conflict started.