South Africa loses first elephant to poachers in a decade

JOHANNESBURG Fri May 16, 2014 9:33am EDT

A pile of around 832 pieces of ivory weighing 2903kg (6400 pounds), which was seized by Ugandan officials, lays in a storage facility at the revenues authority headquarters in Kampala October 18, 2013. REUTERS/James Akena

A pile of around 832 pieces of ivory weighing 2903kg (6400 pounds), which was seized by Ugandan officials, lays in a storage facility at the revenues authority headquarters in Kampala October 18, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/James Akena

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa suffered its first elephant poaching incident in 10 years this week at the country's largest game reserve, the South African National Parks (SANParks) said on Friday.

An elephant bull was "purposefully shot for its tusks" by four suspected poachers at the Kruger National Park in the eastern Mpumalanga province, SANParks said in a statement.

Elephant poaching has been a problem in the rest of Africa while poaching in South Africa has been largely confined to rhinos, with more than 1,000 rhinos killed for their horns last year.

"If we compare the situation in Africa our concentration has been on rhinos. We need to now refocus our attention," SANParks spokesman Reynold Thakuli said.

Evidence suggested the tusks were headed for neighboring Mozambique as the incident took place on the northern part of the vast national park, he added.

The demand for ivory and rhino horn in East Asia is thought to be fueling the poaching. Rhino horn can fetch as much as $65,000 a kilogram on the black market, making it more expensive than gold, platinum and cocaine.

(Reporting by Zandi Shabalala; Editing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo)

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