The poaching epidemic in Africa

    Below are figures showing the catastrophic drop in elephant numbers in some of the elephant range countries in Africa.

    Consider for a moment what the statistics represent.  Every murdered elephant was unique and distinctive in its character, thoughts, and emotions, whether a wise old matriarch or a baby just at the start of its life, and each one had an important role in its herd. Each number tells a story of an agonizing death and of grief for the remaining members of the herd (if any have remained).

    Each death is a loss to the herd, to the potential for species survival, to the country and the African continent, and to the entire world. Each loss impoverishes not only the natural world and the environment but also our own humanity.

    Could our humanity survive if we allow elephants to be slaughtered into oblivion?

    Poaching in Africa

    Rangers removing tusks from an elephant killed by poachers.

    The crash in elephant populations:

    Cameroon: In February 2012, 650 elephants were killed by poachers in a national park. In March 2013, at least 40 endangered forest elephants were killed, including very young and newborns.

    Central African Republic: In May 2013, 26 elephants were massacred by 17 poachers with Kalashnikov rifles in a national park that until then had been considered a safe haven for elephants. As a result of poaching, elephant numbers have gone from 70,000 in 1970 to less than 200 individuals today.

    Central and western Africa:  62% of the endangered forest elephants have been massacred in the last decade.

    Chad: At least 86 elephants including 33 pregnant females were slaughtered in March 2013

    Congo (DRC) has lost 90% of its elephants. In the Garamba National Park in northeastern DRC, fewer than 2,000 elephants were left in 2012, compared to 22,000 in the 1970s.

    Gabon: It is estimated that 11,000 elephants have been poached since 2004 in Gabon, home to half of Africa’s forest elephants.

    Ivory Coast: There are less than 2,000 elephants left.

    Kenya: Kenya’s elephant population has plummeted from around 167,000 to 35,000 in less than 40 years.

    Senegal has only between 5 and 10 elephants left.

    Sierra Leone lost its last wild elephant in 2009.

    Tanzania: 30 to 60 elephants are killed EVERY DAY. The population estimate in 2008 was approximately 165,000 — today there are fewer than 23,000 elephants left… every day this number is shrinking.

    Zimbabwe: In Hwange National Park in October 2013, more than 300 elephants were killed by cyanide poisoning put in their drinking water.

    Elephants poisoned by cyanide

    Zimbabwe, Oct 2013. Elephants poisoned by cyanide in their drinking hole.

    The list goes on and on, a catalogue of carcasses and horrific suffering. The cases above are only a sample in Africa; in countries in Asia and the Far East, elephants are even more endangered and face extinction as well … in fact, not a single place on earth is safe for elephants any more. They are being hunted down and killed everywhere – and it is up to people now, at this critical moment, to save them.

    Crucially, it is up to the governments of Africa’s elephant-range countries to take strong concerted action to end the poaching and preserve their most valuable resource – their wildlife and iconic species. In places with strict anti-poaching laws and enforcement, and where this was combined with helping local residents resolve conflicts with elephants, poaching has been significantly reduced. The solutions are there – bring in harsh punishment and close the loopholes that allow corruption and criminality to thrive, and put resources and education into solving human-elephant conflict. Of course every link in the chain of the ivory trade has to be dismantled, but if it could start in Africa as a major assault on poachers and traders, the killing would diminish immediately.

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