DAKAR, Senegal — Elephant meat is flooding food markets in villages near a famed wildlife reserve in Central African Republic one month after rebels believed to be involved in poaching overthrew the government, conservationists said Thursday.

The Dzanga-Sangha reserve in the rainforests of southwestern Central African Republic has been home to more than 3,400 forest elephants and features a world-renowned clearing where dozens gather each day.

Now the political chaos unleashed by a rebellion that overthrew Central African Republic's president of a decade has enabled elephant poachers to further their slaughter.

"Elephant poaching is on the increase and given the fact that Central African Republic for the moment is also in dire straits we are fearing for the worst in terms of people trying to look seriously for ivory," said Bas Huijbregts, head of policy for WWF's campaign against poaching in Central Africa.

Elephant meat is now being openly sold not only in the town of Bayanga near the reserve, but also in surrounding villages near the protected wildlife area, which is part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, he said.

At least 40 elephants have been slain at Dzanga-Sangha since the rebels took power on March 24, said local residents.