Elephant Population: A country-by-country analysis

2017-04-24 16:30 - Unathi Nkanjeni
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Cape Town - A country-by-country analysis to better understand the rapid decline in Africa’s elephant population – shows vastly different patterns of decline across 10 specific African countries. 

According to the study done by the online marketplace, since 2007, elephants have been in severe decline, with the total population down by an alarming 30%, as indicated by a recent aerial survey – the most comprehensive ever undertaken on the continent.

SafariBookings.com says the country-by-country analysis examines why elephant populations are in decline at vastly different rates in the 10 major safari countries.

SEE: #ShockWildlifeTruths: Elephant numbers in Africa decrease by a third in just 7 years

Added to this, the analysis highlights these differences and explores possible connections, which include human population increases, GDP per capita changes, the size of elephant ranges and the numbers of illegal carcasses recovered.

"Our analysis concludes that the primary reason for the decline is poaching. Less clear is why the decline in elephant numbers - and therefore the rate of poaching - varies so much between countries. Our article argues that the country factors influencing poaching are complex, inter-related, geographically influenced and obscured by corruption."

SEE: United for Wildlife hosts free online courses in wildlife conservation

Some of the country-by-country results analysis include:

South Africa has an elephant range covering less than 3% of the country’s total land area, while Tanzania saw a decline in its elephant population of 63%, or 86 320 individuals, by far the biggest drop of any major safari country; this is followed by Mozambique, with a decline of almost 34%; while Botswana, Zimbabwe and Kenya showed declines between 8% and 15% in their elephant populations.

In South Africa, 30 carcasses were discovered in 2015, the most significant number to date. During the same period of 2007 to 2015, Namibia recorded a significant 44% increase in its elephant population, according to the study.

SEE: #ShockWildlifeTruths: Madikwe's 1000+ elephants in need of rescue escape corridor

"Our analysis also found a substantial increase in illegal elephant carcasses. In the period from 2008 to 2013, Tanzania, Kenya and Mozambique saw an increase in illegal carcasses of several hundred percent."

"Fast falling"

The data also indicates elephant population levels are falling fast – at around 8% annually as poaching is undoubtedly the main cause for this decline.

SEE: Counting Elephants: Just how troubled is this species?

How can the poaching be addressed?

"This alarming loss in elephant numbers can only be tackled through a specific country-by-country strategy. Such a strategy needs to be rapidly researched and implemented for the long-term survival of the iconic African elephant – before it’s too late," suggest the analysts.

Many also believe the issue needs to be resolved at the source of the consumption market. Towards the end of 2016 China has just  confirmed it will end the world’s largest ivory market, with key changes to be in place as early as the end of March 2017 and a full domestic ivory sales ban by the end of the new year ahead.

Between 800 and 900 cases of ivory smuggling are uncovered in mainland China each year, according to customs figures. And more than half of legitimate ivory businesses are implicated in the illegal trade. The United States - the world's second-largest consumer of illegal ivory after China - announced in June a near-total ban on the trade of African elephant ivory but with notable exemptions including antiques.

WildAid CEO Peter Knights says,“China’s exit from the ivory trade is the greatest single step that could be taken to reduce poaching for elephants. We thank President Xi for his leadership and congratulate the State Forestry Administration for this timely plan. We will continue to support their efforts through education and persuading consumers not to buy ivory.” 

Unique initiatives

There are also innovative initiatives being employed to eliminate the rapid decline caused by poaching.An initiative led by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in association with British Airways, says human-elephant conflict is being managed in a most sustainable manner - by erecting honey-bee fences between areas where humans grow food, and elephants roam freely. 

SEE: Human-elephant conflict: Bees fight the sustainable battle in Kenya

The project, piloted in 2014 in consultation with elephant expert Dr Lucy King, has now been expanded.  The farmers in the area were desperate for a solution and very receptive to the idea two years ago. And their hopes for a solution paid off. 

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