Populations of elephants in Africa continue to be under severe threat as the illegal trade in ivory grows—with double the numbers of elephants killed and triple the amounts of ivory seized, over the last decade. According to a new report, Elephants in the Dust—The African Elephant Crisis, increasing poaching levels, as well as loss of habitat are threatening the survival of African elephant populations in Central Africa as well as previously secure populations in West, Southern and Eastern Africa.
The report—produced by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network (TRAFFIC)—says that systematic monitoring of large-scale seizures of ivory destined for Asia is indicative of the involvement of criminal networks, which are increasingly active and entrenched in the trafficking of ivory between Africa and Asia.
At sites monitored through the CITES-led Monitoring Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) programme alone, which hold approximately 40 percent of the total elephant population in Africa, an estimated 17,000 elephants were illegally killed in 2011. Initial data from 2012 shows that the situation did not improve. However, overall figures may be much higher.
These threats compound the most important long-term threat to the species’ survival—increasing loss of habitat as a result of rapid human population growth and large-scale land conversion for agriculture, which provides for international markets.
“CITES must re-engage on illegal wildlife crime with a renewed sense of purpose, commitment, creativity, cooperation and energy involving range states and transit countries to consuming nations of products such as ivory,” says Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP executive director.
“The surge in the killing of elephants in Africa and the illegal taking of other listed species globally threatens not only wildlife populations but the livelihoods of millions who depend on tourism for a living and the lives of those wardens and wildlife staff who are attempting to stem the illegal tide.”
“This report provides clear evidence that adequate human and financial resources, the sharing of know-how, raising public awareness in consumer countries, and strong law enforcement must all be in place if we are to curb the disturbing rise in poaching and illegal trade,” says John Scanlon, secretary-general of CITES. More....