The following article is an adaptation of an original blog post written by Dr. Susan Canney, Project Leader with the Mali Elephant Project initiated by WILD Foundation; an SOS Rapid Action Grantee.
The main wave of the warfare in Mali has washed over the Gourma Region and the elephant range, and its immediate threat is diminished due to foreign intervention. However, mop-up work is still occurring in the Gourma as some of the jihadis and rebels are in hiding in the area, trying to flee. The next main phase of counter-insurgency will now begin, which is less certain and far more challenging, but mostly centered in the North it is hoped.
In the last year there were the first few incidents of poaching, totaling just 6. Thus far, the communities have managed to stem the tide, and we are now poised to deploy the specially-trained, anti-poaching team, that have been initiated in partnership with the Mali government and supported by numerous sponsors including SOS- Save Our Species.
In addition to the threat of poaching, the fighting may also be affecting the elephants in other ways.
All elephants have a very acute sense of sound and smell including an exceptional ability to detect vibrations and pick up smells over long distances. This not only allows them to communicate, and sniff out water or food but also gives them a useful early warning of approaching danger (see www.elephantvoices.org for an overview of elephant communication).
Unlike elephants in other parts of Africa or India, the Gourma elephants are extremely shy of human contact, and easily stressed by such things as the sound or smell of a vehicle. They spend much of their time in thicket-forests where they find food, water, shelter from the sun and refuge from human activity. More....