A century ago some five millions wild elephants roamed Africa. Today fewer than 500,000 remain, a result of poaching for meat and ivory as well as habitat loss due to expanding human development. A worldwide ban on ivory sales in 1990 under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) allowed some populations to recover briefly, but a recent resurgence in illegal poaching means the iconic species is still in hot water.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reported recently that African elephants are "under severe threat" with double the number killed and triple the amount of ivory seized in recent years over previous decades. And the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which maintains the international "Red List of Threatened Species," categorizes African elephants as "vulnerable" and warns that conservation initiatives are not working to stem declining population numbers.
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), poachers kill tens of thousands of African elephants each year to meet the growing demand for ivory products across the Far East. "Asia stands behind a steadily increasing trend in illegal ivory and there are still thriving domestic ivory markets in Africa," says WWF.
In addition to the demand for ivory, war and natural resource exploitation across Africa contribute to poaching as increasingly larger numbers of hungry people turn to wild elephant meat as a source of food. WWF reports that limited resources, along with the remoteness and inaccessibility of so much elephant habitat, make it difficult for governments and agencies to monitor and protect elephant herds. More....