A 40 year old male elephant believed to be the oldest and most peaceful in Semliki wildlife reserve in western Uganda has been killed by suspected poachers. Park authorities said the elephant was named Baraka, a Swahili word meaning peace, because it was approachable.
They said most of the visitors to Semliki would almost be sure of an encounter with Baraka. The age of an elephant varies from one area to another. In East Africa, the oldest are normally about 70-75 years, while in South Africa they reach between 60 and 65 years. The world’s known oldest elephant died at 86.
The headless carcass of the peaceful elephant was discovered within Semliki near Kitika in Ntoroko recently. “We heard gunshots one afternoon in the park and we suspected it was either Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) officials chasing after poachers or poachers taking down a kill,” said Peter Mwanja, a manager at Wild Places. “After failing to get help from UWA, we called the UPDF in the reserve and during the search we came across this elephant’s carcass,” he added It is believed Baraka was killed for his huge tusks by poachers. “This was a cruel death. It seems they sliced off the head using a chain saw,” lamented one conservationist. In a separate incident, Mwanja said about a week ago, while on routine patrol, they found another carcass of young elephant, still with no tusks. “It is very rare to find a young one moving on its own. This is very suspicious. We need more surveillance and investigations,” he said. Semliki has lost seven elephants since January, according to Charles Tumwesigye, the conservation director at the UWA. The last census in the reserve put the population of elephants at only 40.
Tumwesigye said elephant poaching has been increasing over the last two years, pointing out that the rampant killing of elephants is raging in Kenya, Tanzania and Congo. Apart from elephants, Mwanja said other animals such as Uganda Kob were being poached and loaded in small cars like goats. “They even sell the meat on goat stalls,” said, Mwanja adding that poaching was common in Kitika and near the sand river in the Semliki game reserve. Elephants are protected according to national arid international laws. The Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of wild flora and fauna has for the last two decades listed African elephants in the region as endangered species. But poachers kill elephants for ivory, which is highly sought after in Asian countries such as China for making ornaments.