Dr.Y.Bala Murali Krishna
Delhi, Mar 5(2013) The wild elephants may face extinction within the
next decade in Central Africa if the current trend of poaching the
animals for their valuable tusks is unchecked.
rapid, multi-level action is imperative to save elephants. A drastic
increase of funding, and an immediate focus on the most effective
protection strategies, are essential to avoid future huge losses to
the remaining elephant populations, conservationists aver.
study titled "Devastating Decline in Forest Elephants in Central
Africa", just published in the online journal PLOS
that across their range in central Africa, a staggering 62 percent of
all forest elephants have been killed for their ivory over the past
analysis confirms what conservationists have feared: the rapid trend
towards extinction -- potentially within the next decade -- of the
forest elephant," says Dr. Samantha Strindberg of the Wildlife
Conservation Society (WCS), one of the lead authors of the study.
the species requires a coordinated global effort in the countries
where elephants occur -- all along the ivory smuggling routes, and at
the final destination in the Far East. We don't have much time before
elephants are gone," says the other lead author Dr. Fiona
Maisels also of WCS.
study, which examines the largest ever amount of Central African
elephant survey data, comes as 178 countries gather in Bangkok to
discuss wildlife trade issues, including poaching and ivory
study -- the largest ever conducted on the African forest elephant --
includes the work of more than 60 scientists between 2002 and 2011,
and an immense effort by national conservation staff who spent 91,600
person-days surveying for elephants in five countries (Cameroon,
Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon and
the Republic of Congo), walking over 13,000 kilometers (more than
8,000 miles) and recording over 11,000 samples for the analysis.
paper shows that almost a third of the land where African forest
elephants were able to live 10 years ago has become too dangerous for
Dr. John Hart of the Lukuru Foundation says: "Historically,
elephants ranged right across the forests of this vast region of over
2 million square kilometers (over 772,000 square miles), but now
cover in just a quarter of that area.
the forest cover remains, it is empty of elephants, demonstrating
that this is not a habitat degradation issue. This is almost entirely
due to poaching. Recent surveys from Democratic Republic of Congo
showed a major decline of elephants in the Okapi Faunal Reserve,
considered the last stronghold for elephants in the region.
show clearly that forest elephants were increasingly uncommon in
places with high human density, high infrastructure density such as
roads, high hunting intensity, and poor governance as indicated by
levels of corruption and absence of law enforcement.
from the African savannah elephant, the African forest elephant is
slightly smaller than its better known relative and is considered by
many to be a separate species. They play a vital role in maintaining
the biodiversity of one of Earth's critical carbon sequestering
Lee White CBE, head of Gabon's National Parks Service says: "A
rain forest without elephants is a barren place. They bring it to
life, they create the trails and keep open the forest clearings other
animals use; they disperse the seeds of many of the rainforest trees
-- elephants are forest gardeners at a vast scale.
calls reverberate through the trees reminding us of the grandeur of
primeval nature. If we do not turn the situation around quickly the
future of elephants in Africa is doomed. These new results illustrate
starkly just how dramatic the situation has become. Our actions over
the coming decade will determine whether this iconic species
carried out by the CITES-MIKE program has shown that the increase in
poaching levels across Africa since 2006 is strongly correlated with
trends in consumer demand in the Far East, and that poaching levels
are also strongly linked with governance at the national level and
poverty at the local scale. This has resulted in escalating elephant
massacres in areas previously thought to be safe.
have been carrying out surveys in the forests of Gabon for over a
decade and seen an increasing number of elephant carcasses over the
years" say co-authors Mr. Rostand Aba'a of the Gabon National
Parks Service, and Mr. Marc Ella Akou of WWF Gabon.
this month, the government of Gabon announced the loss of
approximately 11,000 forest elephants in Minkébé National Park
between 2004 and 2012; previously holding Africa's largest forest
Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon says: "Gabon's elephants are under
siege because of an illegal international market that has driven
ivory prices in the region up significantly. I call upon the
international community to join us in this fight. If we do not
reverse the tide fast the African elephant will be exterminated."
George Wittemyer of Save the Elephants and Colorado State University,
says: "This study provides unequivocal evidence of the rapid
demise of one of the planet's most charismatic and intelligent
species. The world must wake up to stem this destruction of species
due to conspicuous consumption."
Stephen Blake of the Max Planck Institute, says: "Forest
elephants need two things: they need adequate space in which to range
normally, and they need protection. Unprotected roads, most often
associated with exploitation for timber or other natural resources,
push deeper and deeper into the wilderness, tolling the death knell
for forest elephants. Large road-free areas must be maintained, and
the roads that do exist must have effective wildlife protection plans
if forest elephants are to survive."
chronic corruption and improving poor law enforcement, which
facilitate poaching and trade, are crucial. It is also vital to
improve control of import and sales of wildlife goods by the
recipient and transit countries of illegal ivory, especially in Asia.
recipient nations, with the international community, should invest
heavily in public education and outreach to inform consumers of the
ramifications of the ivory trade.
the challenge is daunting, China and other Asian countries
demonstrated that strong political will can quickly and successfully
modify behavior and governance, as was witnessed during the 2003 SARS
threat. Similar action, focused on curbing ivory demand is key, if
elephants are to survive.//EOM//