More than 20 elephants have been killed during a poaching attack at Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
African Parks Network, an NGO which manages Garamba, issued an alert confirming the incident. It said the area where the poachers attacked, houses the terrorist group Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).
"Park management was alerted to the poaching incident when one of five collared elephants, which are monitored daily by satellite, was observed to have remained stationery for 24 hours," the statement said. "
A ground patrol sent to investigate discovered six dead elephants, including two babies, grouped together in the southern section of the park. Unusually, the genitalia of the adult male elephants had been removed along with the tusks.
"During patrol flights another two groups of carcasses involving 13 elephants were located. Ground patrols involving more than 70 rangers subsequently located another three carcasses, bringing the total number of elephants killed to 22.
"Our initial investigations suggest that the poaching was the work of a professional group possibly numbering ten or more...As Garamba is located in a politically volatile region, with armed forces from a number of countries as well as the Lord's Resistance Army present in the region, follow-up operations will be difficult."
Jane Edge, Director Marketing and Philanthropy at African Parks told IBTimesUK: "At this stage we are still not sure about who is leading the poaching.
"We are waiting for further communications from the anti-poaching units.
"As soon as we have the new information, we will publish a holding statement on our website."
Another incident in Garamba, attributed to the LRA, occurred in 2013. During the attack, some park rangers injured a member of the LRA as well as two young women in the LRA group, who later died in the Nagero Hospital from their wounds.
In 2009, an LRA attack on Garamba left at least eight people dead.
Poaching in central Africa is very frequent and often linked to militant groups present in the region.