By Nika Shakhnazarova – The Sun
A HORRIFYING drone picture shows a mutilated elephant lying dead after being a hacked apart with a chainsaw by poachers.
The gruesome image, taken by filmmaker Justin Sullivan in northern Botswana, reveals how the majestic beast’s head was cut in half to remove its tusks.
Sullivan, 28, said he hoped the photo would help draw attention to the problem of poaching and its impact.
He said: “This specific elephant was slaughtered in an extremely inhumane manner.
“The photo represents just how isolated and disconnected not only the elephant was in that moment, but how disconnected we are from the situation.”
Sullivan, from Cape Town, South Africa, captured the image after overhearing rangers talking about the carcass while in Botswana for a film project.
He said: “They said an elephant had just been poached and I asked to be taken to the site.
“On arrival I used a drone to capture the image.
“The image is called ‘Disconnection’, the perspective of the image gives context to the situation which you would never be able to see from the ground.”
An estimated 30,000 elephants are killed globally every year, with millions of pounds worth of ivory being sold on black markets around the world.
Poaching is a growing problem in Botswana in particular.
The discovery of carcasses rose 600 per cent in the country between 2014 and 2018, and in May the government lifted a ban on hunting elephants.
Sullivan added: “People have obviously reacted with mixed feelings of anger and sadness, especially with the recent lift on the hunting ban in Botswana, but this photo has driven some constructive dialogue around how we can promote more sustainable elephant conversation and solve our current ecological crisis.”
The image comes days after police in the Congo released images found on the phones of two poachers recently arrested showing the men posing with the carcass of an elephant.
Authorities said up to six men can be seen in the photos, proudly holding the animal’s head and sitting on its corpse.
In one image, a man holds what looks like an assault rifle probably used to gun the animal down.
It’s not known if the images on the phone are from one killing or multiple attacks, but the men were found with four tusks weighing around 20kg.
The haul would have been worth tens of thousands of pounds on the black market in a country where average wages can be less than £400 a year.
The poachers were tracked down and arrested with help from the wildlife law and enforcement group Eagle Network, which monitors the illegal wildlife trade across sub-Saharan Africa.
Perrine Odier, a coordinator for Eagle’s partner agency Palf in Congo, said the photos were likely keepsakes for the poachers for their own personal pride.
She said: “These photos were found in the phone of the main ivory trafficker. He keeps it as his memories.
“He does not need to show it to customers because he does not need that to do the business.
“It is clear that they are proud to pose with weapons and the elephant corpse.
“Being a physical ordeal, they consider themselves winners and perhaps great men to successfully kill such large animals.
“As an activist, I feel a lot of helplessness and sadness. I console this sadness by telling myself that in prison he will not be able to kill other elephants, so I think we may have saved lives all the same.
“I now hope that justice will condemn this person to the maximum penalty and that it will dissuade him from start again these devastating activities.”
The Eagle Network said the men were awaiting sentencing.
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According to the organisation both men are repeat offenders, with one having been arrested for the same crime two years ago.
The poachers are thought to operate near the Gabonese border with Congo in dense jungle which makes it hard for them to be tracked down.
In June alone the Eagle Network helped in the arrests of 22 wildlife contraband traffickers, in four countries, with 18 of those men dealing in ivory.
Earlier this week, a shocking photo also showed a sick trophy hunting couple kissing over the corpse of a lion they have just killed.
Despite a ban on the international trade in ivory, African elephants are still being poached in large numbers.
Tens of thousands of elephants are being killed every year for their ivory tusks.
The ivory is often carved into ornaments and jewellery – China is the biggest consumer market for such products.
The ban on international trade was introduced in 1989 by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) after years of unprecedented poaching.
In the 1980s, an estimated 100,000 elephants were being killed per year and up to 80% of herds were lost in some regions.
The ban allowed some populations to recover, especially where elephants were adequately protected.
But there has been an upsurge in poaching and illegal ivory trafficking in recent years, driven by increasing demand in Asia, which has led to steep declines in forest elephant numbers and some savannah elephant populations.
Insufficient anti-poaching capacity, weak law enforcement and corruption undermine efforts to stop the poaching and trafficking in some countries.