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At least 19 Malian elephants killed by poachers on motorcycles, government official says

  • In this photo taken on Saturday, March 3, 2012,  Elephants and cattle drink water inside a dam near Hombori, Mali. Motorcycle-riding poachers have killed at least 19 elephants over the past month, officials said Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015, a significant blow to a rare grouping that migrates through a part of central Mali where al-Qaida and other extremists have been active.  (AP Photo/Baba Ahmed)

    In this photo taken on Saturday, March 3, 2012, Elephants and cattle drink water inside a dam near Hombori, Mali. Motorcycle-riding poachers have killed at least 19 elephants over the past month, officials said Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015, a significant blow to a rare grouping that migrates through a part of central Mali where al-Qaida and other extremists have been active. (AP Photo/Baba Ahmed)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this photo taken on Saturday, March 3, 2012, an Elephant drinks water inside a dam near Hombori, Mali. Motorcycle-riding poachers have killed at least 19 elephants over the past month, officials said Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015, a significant blow to a rare grouping that migrates through a part of central Mali where al-Qaida and other extremists have been active.  (AP Photo/Baba Ahmed)

    In this photo taken on Saturday, March 3, 2012, an Elephant drinks water inside a dam near Hombori, Mali. Motorcycle-riding poachers have killed at least 19 elephants over the past month, officials said Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015, a significant blow to a rare grouping that migrates through a part of central Mali where al-Qaida and other extremists have been active. (AP Photo/Baba Ahmed)  (The Associated Press)

Wildlife officials in the West African nation of Mali say motorcycle-riding poachers have killed at least 19 elephants in the country since the start of the year.

Soumana Timbo, assistant director of the government's conservation efforts, on Wednesday described the extent of the elephant slaughter around the Malian town of Gourma.

It has been difficult for Malian wildlife officials to patrol the area because Gourma is located in the zone where Islamic extremists are still active.

It is believed there are between 350 and 700 elephants left in Mali, and they are under growing threat not only from humans but from climate change.