UK troops to tackle ivory poaching

African elephant in Kenya

British troops have been sent to Gabon to tackle an increase in ivory poaching.

The 12 Northern Ireland-based soldiers are on their way to the African country, which has seen widespread elephant killings for their tusks.

Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba requested help in battling the international trade.

Most of the country’s elephants have been illegally poached for trade to Asia, leaving the population dwindling.

The elephants inhabit the Minkebe National Park, which has a forest the size of Belgium.

About 15,000 of the forest’s 22,000 elephants are said to have been killed by poachers.

The UK soldiers have been drawn from the Royal Scots Borderers, the Rifles and other specialist corps and will work alongside local rangers at a training centre in Mokekou.

“Military input cannot solve this alone, but it can help at the tactical level,” said Maj Mark Shercliff.

Ivory is used for trinkets, souvenirs and also in traditional medicines

The ivory trade has been banned since 1989 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, but a black market is still thriving.

About 30,000 African elephants were killed by poachers last year, according to charity WWF.

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