A 14-year study has shown a bleak future for Kenyan elephants—the study of nearly 1,000 elephants in Kenya found the death rate amongst big-tusked males to have accelerated in recent years. This news isn’t new, given that this past September CNN warned elephants in Africa are being killed “at an alarming rate by increasingly efficient and well-armed poachers as international demand soars for the ivory from their tusks.”
The Associated Press shares of the study:
Save the Elephants said Thursday that its study found that the region of Samburu had 38 known elephant males over the age of 30 in the year 2000, but that only five of those original 38 were still alive by 2011. Almost half of the known females over 30 years also died during this period, at least half from illegal killings, the study found. Targeted poaching deaths of Africa’s elephants have accelerated in the last several years. The killings are driven by the rising price of ivory as demand increases across Asia — and especially in China.
“China has taken over Japan as the world’s largest ivory consumer. And from 2006 to last year, the ivory price in China has tripled. So that’s why some Chinese buy ivory products in Africa with dollars and smuggle them back to China to sell for a better price,” said Grace Gabriel, Asia regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, to CNN.
“We have enacted corresponding laws and regulations, and made significant efforts in enforcing them,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei to CNN. “We have made positive contributions to tackling ivory trafficking activities worldwide. We will keep this momentum going in our future work.”
As CNN appropriately points out, the proof is in the numbers:
The numbers available are stark: The poaching of elephants is the most intense it has been in a decade, and the number of documented ivory seizures has reached its highest level since 1989, a group of agencies that monitor elephant populations and the ivory trade said in June.
The elephant population in central Africa, where the worst of the killing is believed to be taking place, has dropped significantly over the past 10 years, according to estimates cited by Bas Huijbregts, head of field programs for the conservation organization WWF in the Congo Basin region.
The level of butchery is a throwback to the 1980s, when an estimated 100,000 elephants were being killed every year, according to WWF. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in 1989 outlawed the international ivory trade and sharply reduced illegal killing in some countries.
The chief reason for the deteriorating situation today is the rising demand in Asia and the weak law enforcement against poachers and illegal ivory traders in central African countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic, Huijbregts said. Little is being done to prosecute the people in those countries who run the ivory trade, he said, largely because they are often local government officials who use their authority to sidestep inspections and intimidate law enforcement agents.
Photo by Heather Thorkelson