Can you imagine Africa without elephants? We don’t want to, reason enough to be alarmed when we read a report of the mammoth mammals being slaughtered by the thousands.
Poachers killed an estimated 100,000 elephants across Africa between 2010 and 2012, a new study published last week found.
Increased demand for ivory in China and other Asian nations has driven the huge increase in the death rate, conservationists said.
The latest study is “the first to scientifically quantify the number of deaths across the continent by measuring deaths in one closely monitored park in Kenya and using other published data to extrapolate fatality tolls across the continent, Jason Straziuso reported for The Associated Press.
A decade ago, illegal killing accounted for 25 percent of all elephant deaths. Today, about 65 percent of deaths are caused illegally.
If that trend were allowed to continue, the species would become extinct – but not if Save the Elephants and other such groups succeed in their efforts.
And people around the world can help with financial support (as explained at the end of this article).
Elephants survived a major poaching crisis in the 1970s and 1980s fueled by Japan, according to Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants.
“China’s rising middle class and the demand for ivory in that country of 1.3 billion people is driving the black market price of ivory up,” Straziuso reported.
For that reason, more impoverished people in Africa are “willing to take on the criminal risk and kill elephants. That causation in my mind is clear,” said George Wittemyer of Colorado State University. He’s lead author of the new study.
Experts from Save the Elephants, the Kenya Wildlife Service and others groups, including two international universities, were co-authors.
“Some individual elephant death numbers are shocking. The elephant population in Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve dropped from 40,000 to 13,000 over the last three years,” Straziuso reported.
The highest death rate is in Central Africa, with East Africa, Tanzania and Kenya not far behind,” Straziuso wrote. “Botswana is a bright spot, with a population that is holding steady or growing. South Africa’s rhinos are being killed, but poachers have not yet begun attacking elephants.”
China is aware of its image problem. This month it donated anti-poaching equipment to four wildlife conservancies in Kenya, and the Chinese ambassador said that his country is increasing publicity and education among its people to help combat illegal ivory trade.
How many elephants survive in Africa? Counting is very difficult and even Douglas-Hamilton declines to estimate, Straziuso reported. “An often-cited number is roughly 400,000, but the Save the Elephants founder would argue that no one truly knows.”
Save the Elephants, a United Kingdom-registered charity, is a founding partner of the Wildlife Conservation Network, which accepts donations to the Elephant Crisis Fund. That fund “will not support overhead costs, meetings, or anything that does not directly contribute to the survival of elephants,” the charity says on its website, adding: “The impact of your donations will be doubled with a dollar for dollar match up to $500,000.”
To learn more about Save the Elephants or to make a tax-deductible donation online to the Crisis Fund through the Wildlife Conservation Network, visit www.savetheelephants.org.
Checks can be mailed to Wildlife Conservation Network at 209 Mississippi Street, San Francisco, CA 94107 Donors should indicate the money is to go toward elephants and include their address for the mailing of tax information.
Recalling the poaching in the ‘70s and ‘80s, Douglas-Hamilton said, “We stopped that killing, and … I believe we can do it again,” he added.
We sincerely hope so.