Worse Than Expected Numbers of Savanna & Forest Elephants Left in the Wild
Project: the Great Elephant Census
Place: The continent of Africa
Purpose: To count all of the Africa’s elephants (African Savanna Elephants & African Forest Elephants) by Air over the course of 2 years
People: The team was comprised of scientists (90) & crew members (268)
Pronouncement: Grim, much worse than expected
To think that it hasn’t been that many years ago (10-20 ) that the mighty African Savanna elephant maintained quite a presence in the wild, just going about their lives with their elephant herds; just being elephants.
But more recently one ecologist, Mike Chase, who spoke with Cable Network News, shared his concern that the “ecosystems” they surveyed were so depleted of elephants (elephants now number in the “few hundreds or tens of elephants” rather than the “many thousands” which were “historically” recorded) that it left him feeling incredibly dismayed.
In his interview, when asked if he was “optimistic or pessimistic about the future of Africa’s elephants,” Chase explained that considering the Great Elephant Census findings (and the study included the tracking a few of the elephants by GPS) he definitely felt that “we are failing elephants”. Poachers are continuing to kill our elephants for their ivory. Poachers are continuing to wipe our elephants out.
The diminutive forest elephant has been reduced by “a staggering 65% between 2002 & 2013” and these elephants have always lived in a seemingly protected environment under the lush foliage of their tropical habitat.
Yet poachers still find them and hunt them down. And for what purpose are they killing our elephants? To fuel the demand for ivory across Asia and throughout China. Blood ivory. These humans have our elephants’ blood on their hands.
Estimates are that “to come back to the population (numbers) it was before 2002, based on their (a forest elephant’s) natality rates, it could take nearly a century to recover.” This from Peter Wrege of Cornell University, who was on the team of another study (of African Elephants) by Wildlife Conservation Society in New York.
For the forest elephant’s reproduction cycle is “every five or six years” compared to the three to four year cycle for their cousins, the African Savanna elephant. And with the female African Forest elephant; they only begin their birthing years from the age of 23, “a decade later,” which again makes them lag behind their “Savanna counterparts”.
To make matters worse, poaching is more rampant in the states of the Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo, areas inhabited by African Forest Elephants and impoverished people. These are “poor countries that suffer from bad governance and conflict.” (A United Nations’ meeting will soon place in Johannesburg. Officials will make a decision as to whether or not some African countries, such as Zimbabwe and Namibia, will be allowed to “open up the ivory trade” and to effectively decimate the remaining elephants that struggle to survive.)
If one looks at the 2011 statistics of the slaughter of our African elephants (30,000 elephants died that year) one can see that those numbers have gone down. And while this news may be encouraging we must ask ourselves this; have we waited too long to save these elephants? Have we failed our African elephants? Unfortunately, we may not find out before all of our elephants on this planet are gone.
Images Creative Commons: Pixabay Featured African Savanna Elephant greeting; Pixabay Elephant Mama & Baby ; African Forest elephant ; CC Google copyright by Madpony Drawing of elephant poaching ; Pixabay The African Savanna Elephant : Does it Have To End This Way?