Around 40 dorcas gazelles, an endangered species, have been slaughtered by poachers in one of Africa’s largest nature reserves, environmental authorities said Tuesday.
Forestry officials at the Termit and Tin Toumma National Nature Reserve, which covers nearly 100,000 square kilometers (38,000 square miles) of desert and mountains in the southern Sahara, were alerted by local communities.
“It is the worst massacre committed in the reserve. Before, it was on a small scale, a gazelle here, a gazelle there,” Mamane Hamidou, an environmental director in the Zinder region, said.
The poachers “smoked the meat of the gazelles and the way they prepared it, it was surely intended for export,” he added. The dorcas gazelles in the Sahara are mostly hunted for their meat, sometimes they’re sold as pets.
Four suspected poachers, all Nigerien nationals who live within the vast reserve, have been arrested, Hamidou said.
“I call on the justice system to apply the law in all of its force,” Zinder governor Issa Moussa told local media. Poaching carries a prison term of between two months and two years, and a fine of up to a million CFA francs (1500 euros, $1700).
Created in 2012, Termit and Tin Toumma is spread over Niger’s Agadez, Zinder and Diffa regions and boasts 130 species of birds as well as critically endangered Saharan cheetahs and Saharan addax antelopes, and vulnerable