The number of illegally killed elephants across Africa has finally stabilised. After years of rising poaching levels which have dropped the enigmatic species into a crisis, the number of individual elephants being killed for their ivory has stabilised. Whilst this should obviously be heralded as good news , there’s no chance to celebrate as elephants across the continent are still facing the risk of extinction.
The data released by the Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora(CITES) has unfortunately shown that poachers are still killing elephants faster than the birth rate which can only mean one thing for their future survival if this continues.
Across Africa the picture of poaching is mixed. Perhaps most worryingly is the increase in poaching in what was considered a safe haven for elephants; Kruger Park, South Africa. Whilst South Africa maintains its relatively low poaching rate, this increase is a cause for concern for many as are the unacceptably high levels witnessed across Central and West Africa.
“African elephant populations continue to face an immediate threat to their survival from unacceptably high levels of poaching for their ivory, especially in Central and West Africa where high levels of poaching are still evident,” said John Scanlon, CITES Secretary General.
Of course this news shouldn’t undermine the successes that the data has also presented. Last year, Uganda was highlighted as an oasis in the middle of a poaching crisis and this trend is echoed throughout Eastern Africa. In particular Kenya has bucked the trend, declining poaching levels and highlighting what is possible with combined political and collective will.
In order to curb the killing of elephants, CITES has called on the countries consuming ivory to take action as well as those where it is sourced. They have demanded that the 19 countries most heavily involved in the killing of elephants or the consumption of ivory produce national ivory action plans to show how they plan to tackle the issue. So far the results are promising with China, Kenya, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam making progress towards their outlined goals.
Although the news is not entirely positive and elephants are still at peril from extinction, today’s figures should highlight the difference that can be made when combined effort is used to tackle ivory poaching. If this kind of conservation work can be continued hopefully the war against the poaching crisis can be won and we will no longer be talking about the possibility of elephants becoming extinct in our children’s or grandchildren’s lifetime.
Featured Image Credit: David Daballen
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