As someone who has a deep, personal love for Africa and the amazing wildlife that lives there, this story was particularly sad to read. Yesterday, the results of a comprehensive census of the African elephant population were released, and the were sobering to say the least.
The study was conducted by an organization called the Great Elephant Census, which is backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Alan’s Vulcan organization. Using a method of arial data collection and surveillance, researchers have come to the stunning conclusion that there are now only 352,271 elephants left on the African continent. That population is spread out over 18 countries and is estimated to be down 30% in just 7 years. That’s the equivalent of 144,000 elephants lost between 2007 and 2014.
According to the findings, the current elephant population loss is about 8% per year, with roughly 100 animals killed each and every day. Most of that is due to illegal poaching as the demand for ivory remains high in certain parts of the world, including Asia and even the United States. Measures have been taken recently to stem the sale of Ivory across the globe, but a thriving black market remains.
The 352,000 elephants counted in the census are believed to be at least 93% of the population that still exists in the 18 countries surveyed. That number could be higher, but it is difficult to track them completely precisely. Of those counted as part of this research study, 84% lived on protected lands, with the remaining population spotted outside preserves and national parks where they don’t receive any kind of protection at all. That said, many carcasses were found inside those protected regions as poachers ignore laws and cross boundaries to seek their prey.
As you can imagine, with such a massive drop in numbers over the past decade, the possible extinction of the wild elephants in Africa is a real possibility within our lifetimes. Having seen these magnificent creatures up close and personal both on foot and from a vehicle, I can’t imagine them not being a part of the wild landscape on that continent. But, if poaching continues at its current rate, they may be completely gone in as little as 20 years. When you consider that at one point, there were more than 20 million elephants in Africa, you begin to get some perspective about just how decimated the population is there.
Sad news for conservationists for sure. Lets hope we can turn this trend around in the near future.