DAKAR, Senegal -- The WWF said in a statement that suspected poachers belonging to the Seleka rebel group have entered one of Africa's most unique elephant habitats in the Central African Republic, and park guards saw them shooting in the direction of elephants.

According to the WWF, a group of 17 armed men who presented themselves as belonging to Central African Republic's transitional government, which is led by the Seleka rebels, entered the Dzanga-Ndoki National Park on Monday and headed for Dzanga Bai, known locally as the "village of elephants," a clearing where up to 200 elephants congregate every day.

Researchers in the park said they heard shots coming from the Bai. Also on Monday, two park guards saw the armed men inside the viewing tower shooting in the direction of the elephants.

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  • An injured wild elephant tries to stand after it was attacked by poachers a number of days ago at the foothills of Pancharatna hills in Goalpara district of lower Assam, India, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. The poachers cut off two tusks and the tail of the elephant, who is now expected to survive, according to local animal officials. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

  • Indian forest officials, on domestic elephants, try to push an injured wild elephant after it was attacked by poachers a number of days ago at the foothills of Pancharatna hills in Goalpara district of lower Assam, India, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. The poachers cut off two tusks and the tail of the elephant, who is now expected to survive, according to local animal officials. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

  • An Indian forest official tries to feed an injured wild elephant with bananas after it was attacked by poachers a number of days ago at the foothills of Pancharatna hills in Goalpara district of lower Assam, India, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. The poachers cut off two tusks and the tail of the elephant, who is now expected to survive, according to local animal officials. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

  • An Indian forest official tries to feed a banana to an injured wild elephant after it was attacked by poachers a number of days ago at the foothills of Pancharatna hills in Goalpara district of lower Assam, India, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. The poachers cut off two tusks and the tail of the elephant, who is now expected to survive, according to local animal officials. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

  • An Indian forest official throws water on an injured wild elephant to clean it after it was attacked by poachers a number of days ago at the foothills of Pancharatna hills in Goalpara district of lower Assam, India, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. The poachers cut off two tusks and the tail of the elephant, who is now expected to survive, according to local animal officials. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

  • An injured wild elephant tries to eat a banana leaf with its trunk after it was attacked by poachers a number of days ago at the foothills of Pancharatna hills in Goalpara district of lower Assam, India, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. The poachers cut off two tusks and the tail of the elephant, who is now expected to survive, according to local animal officials. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

  • An injured wild elephant struggles as it tries to drink water from a mud puddle after it was attacked by poachers a number of days ago at the foothills of Pancharatna Hills in Goalpara district of lower Assam, India, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. The poachers cut off two tusks and the tail of the elephant, who is now expected to survive, according to local animal officials. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

  • In this photo taken on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012, Malaysian customs officers pose as they display elephant tusks which were recently seized in Port Klang, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Malaysian authorities have seized 1,500 elephant tusks in a $20 million shipment that was believed to have been headed to China. (AP Photo)

  • In this photo taken on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012, Malaysian customs officers pose as they display elephant tusks which were recently seized in Port Klang, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Malaysian authorities have seized 1,500 elephant tusks in a $20 million shipment that was believed to have been headed to China. (AP Photo)

  • IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR WWF-Canon - Mba Ndong Marius, a Parcs Gabon Eco Guard, holds up a poached leopard skin in front of a collection of seized elephant tusk ivory and weapons on Monday, June 25, 2012, in Gabon. More than 1,000 rangers worldwide have lost their lives protecting wild places and protected species in the last ten years, according to the WWF. Perceived by organized criminals to be high profit and low risk, the illicit trade in wildlife is worth at least US$ 19 billion per year, making it the fourth largest illegal global trade after narcotics, counterfeiting, and human trafficking, according to a new report commissioned by WWF. Besides driving many endangered species towards extinction, illegal wildlife trade strengthens criminal networks, undermines national security, and poses increasing risks to global health, according to the WWF report, Fighting illicit wildlife trafficking: A consultation with governments, which will be unveiled today at a briefing for United Nations ambassadors in New York. (WWF-Canon/James Morgan via AP Images)