By Producer Gill Fickling
2011 was not a good year to be an elephant. Although trade in ivory has been banned since 1989, more ivory was seized during that year than any other on record, representing at least 2500 dead elephants. African elephants are being killed in ever larger numbers to satisfy a growing demand in Asia. Cameraman Antonio Tibaldi and I travelled deep into the rain-forest in Gabon with Joseph Okouyi who has dedicated his life to protecting these endangered animals. As chief warden of Ivindo National Park, covering some 1200 square miles of almost impenetrable forest, he and his team have their work cut out. Elephants in this country in Central Africa are increasingly the target of poachers chasing the rich-pickings. Also, it seems local poverty is driving the trade.
The indigenous pygmy population, known for their expert hunting skills and knowledge of the forest, are now struggling to survive as their livelihoods are squeezed. For some soap and lamp-oil and a few dollars, poor pygmies are recruited by ivory traffickers to do the killing. But Joseph, the animal-lover who shares his home with a pet wild-boar and who, as a boy, used to eat out of the same bowl as his dog, is determined to protect the forest elephants – at whatever cost.
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