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Poaching behind worst African elephant losses in 25 years

26 September 2016, 08:37

Nairobi - Africa's overall elephant population has seen the worst declines in 25 years, mainly due to poaching over the past 10 years, according to a report released here on Sunday.

The African Elephant Status Report was launched by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) at the ongoing 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Spices of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Based on population estimates from a wide range of sources, including aerial surveys and elephant dung counts, the estimates for 2015 were 93,000 lower than in 2006. However, including 18,000 from previously uncounted populations, the real decline from estimates is considered to be closer to 111,000.

The continental total is now thought to be about 415,000 elephants, although there may be an additional 117,000 to 135,000 elephants in areas not systematically surveyed.

The surge in poaching for ivory that began approximately a decade ago, the worst that Africa has experienced since the 1970s and 1980s, has been the main driver of the decline, while habitat loss poses an increasingly serious, long-term threat to the species, according to the report.

"These new numbers reveal the truly alarming plight of the majestic elephant, one of the world's most intelligent animals and the largest terrestrial mammal alive today," said IUCN Director General Inger Andersen. "It is shocking but not surprising that poaching has taken such a dramatic toll on this iconic species."

This report provides further scientific evidence of the need to scale up efforts to combat poaching, he said.

"Nevertheless, these efforts must not detract from addressing other major and increasingly devastating threats such as habitat loss," Andersen said.

Read Also: Kenya to train more nutritionists to address shortage

With over 70 percent of the estimated African elephants, Southern Africa has by far the largest number of the species, approximately 293,000 elephants in systematically surveyed areas.

Eastern Africa holds about 86,000 (20 percent) estimated elephants, while Central Africa has about 24,000 estimated elephants (six percent). West Africa continues to hold the smallest regional population with approximately 11,000 (under three percent).

Eastern Africa, the region most affected by poaching, has experienced an almost 50 percent elephant population reduction, largely attributed to an over 60 percent decline in Tanzania's elephant population. Although some sites have recorded declines, elephant numbers have been stable or increasing since 2006 in Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda, and range expansion has been reported in Kenya.

Central Africa's forest elephant population has been substantially affected by poaching for ivory since the 1990s. The Democratic Republic of Congo used to hold one of the most significant forest elephant populations in Africa, which has now been reduced to tiny remnants of its former size.

The savanna populations of Chad have taken heavy losses and those in the Central African Republic have almost completely disappeared.

The report is an authoritative source of knowledge about the numbers and distribution of African elephant populations across their 37 range states in sub-Saharan Africa.

It presents more than 275 new or updated estimates for individual elephant populations across Africa, with over 180 of these arising from systematic surveys.

The report summarizes for the first time in almost a decade elephant numbers at the continental, regional and national levels, and examines changes in population estimates at the site level.

- Xinhua


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