National Geographic : 2015 Sep
Tracking Ivory 53 killing five rangers. A sixth, a young lookout, ran down the hill, disappeared, and is presumed dead. The team’s cook, also wounded, strug- gled 11 miles to get help. Later, when Labu- schagne examined the trajectory of bullets at the scene, he concluded that the poachers had been trained in how to set up a cross fire, which, combined with evidence found at the scene, pointed to President Omar al-Bashir’s Sudan Armed Forces. The story typically would have ended with the wanton killing of these park rangers pro- tecting elephants. But one of the murdered men, Idriss Adoum, had a younger brother, Saleh, who resolved that, when the rains stopped, he and a cousin would hunt the killers in Sudan, where so many ivory roads lead. Sudan’s Complicity As Somalia is to piracy, Sudan has become to ele- phant poaching. In 2012 as many as a hundred percent of its elephants since 2002. Most— up to 3,000—were poached from 2005 to 2008. During those years Sudanese poachers arrived in groups of more than a dozen armed men, camping inside the park for months at a time, killing, in one instance, 64 elephants in a single hunt. When in 2008 the Wildlife Con- servation Society introduced a surveillance airplane, poaching declined, but Sudanese marauders adapted, returning in hit squads of under six men, who infiltrated from outside the park on one-day hunts. They killed fewer elephants per hunt but were much harder to track and stop. Now, says the park’s director, Rian Labuschagne, of African Parks, “my biggest fear is that they’ll start coming in pairs.” The men of the Hippotrague unit assumed that after the previous team’s raid, the poachers had all fled home. But instead, that morning the poachers were hiding among trees surrounding the rangers’ camp. The poachers opened fire, Zakouma’s Mamba Team 1 antipoaching unit includes driver Issa Adoum (brown shirt). After Sudanese poachers killed his ranger father, Adoum refused diya, a traditional community payment. “Diya is for accidents,” he says. Poaching has been curbed, but rebuilding the park’s herd, now at 450, will take years.