New Figures Reveal Poaching For The Illegal Ivory Trade Could Wipe Out A Fifth Of Africa’s Elephants Over Next Decade.
As delegates gather to discuss the plight of the African Elephant at a summit convened by the Government of Botswana and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) new analyses released today find that if poaching rates are sustained at current levels, Africa is likely to lose a fifth of its elephants in the next ten years.The latest analysis of poaching data estimates that in 2012 some 15,000 elephants were illegally killed at 42 sites across 27 African countries participating in Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE), a programme of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), with funding from the European Union.
According to MIKE analysis, this amounts to an estimated 22,000 elephants illegally killed continent-wide in 2012, a slight reduction on the estimated 25,000 elephants poached in 2011.
“With an estimated 22,000 African Elephants illegally killed in 2012, we continue to face a critical situation. Current elephant poaching in Africa remains far too high, and could soon lead to local extinctions if the present killing rates continue. The situation is particularly acute in Central Africa—where the estimated poaching rate is twice the continental average,” said John E. Scanlon, CITES Secretary-General.
The IUCN/SSC African Elephant Specialist Group estimates the African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) population is around 500,000. Elephants in Central Africa are bearing the brunt of the poaching, although high-poaching levels in all sub-regions mean that even the large elephant populations in Southern and Eastern Africa are at risk unless the trend is reversed. Poverty and weak governance in elephant range States, together with rising demand for illegal ivory in consuming nations, are believed to be the key factors behind the increase in elephant poaching in recent years.
The high poaching levels are mirrored by the ivory trafficking figures compiled through the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) database, which TRAFFIC manages on behalf of the CITES Conference of the Parties. According to bias adjusted ETIS data, illicit trade in ivory rose in 2011 to the highest levels in at least 16 years and persists at unacceptably elevated levels through 2012.
Preliminary indicators suggest that even higher levels of illicit trade may be reached in 2013. Although incomplete, the raw data for large-scale ivory seizures in 2013 (involving at least 500 kg of ivory in a single transaction) already represent the greatest quantity of ivory confiscated over the last 25 years for this type of seizure. Large-scale ivory seizures typically indicate the participation of organized crime and so far 18 such seizures have yielded over 41.6 tonnes of ivory this year, but whether this reflects better law enforcement or a further escalation in trade will only be known when a full analysis of the 2013 data is possible sometime next year.
“From 2000 through 2013, the number of large-scale ivory movements has steadily grown in terms of the number of such shipments and the quantity of ivory illegally traded. 2013 already represents a 20% increase over the previous peak year in 2011; we’re hugely concerned,” said Tom Milliken, TRAFFIC’s Ivory Trade expert, who manages the ETIS database. More....