Elephant poaching in Africa is at its highest level in decades, and American taxpayer dollars are helping to fund the frenzied slaughter, the New York Times finds. Soldiers from US-trained and funded armies in Uganda, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo have been implicated in poaching and ivory smuggling. In Congo's Garamba National Park, 22 elephants were recently found shot dead with the adults encircled to protect their young, leading officials to believe that they had been killed by Ugandan troops in a helicopter sighted in the area.
The Ugandan military has received tens of millions of dollars from the US to help its search for Joseph Kony, whose Lord's Resistance Army is also believed to be engaged in widespread poaching. "What bothers me is that it’s probably American taxpayer money paying for the jet fuel for the helicopter," says an American who works as a pilot in the park. Asian crime syndicates run the ivory trade, and conservationists say there will be no end to the slaughter until demand in China dries up. "It’s like the drug war,” the park's director says. “If people keep buying and paying for ivory, it’s impossible to stop it.” (Read more Africa stories.)