Elephant numbers across Africa decrease by a third in just seven years - survey

Elephant numbers across Africa decrease by a third in just seven years - survey
Published: 02 September 2016 (2234 Views)
A pan-African survey of African savannah elephants has revealed declines of a staggering 30 percent - 144,000 elephants -between 2007 and 2014 in the areas covered by the survey.

The Paul G. Allen's Great Elephant Census (GEC) is the first continent-wide aerial survey of African elephants using standardized methodology. Principle investigator, Mike Chase of Elephants Without Borders, said that together with more than 90 scientists, six NGOs, and dozens of conservationists and volunteers on-the-ground they surveyed 18 African countries of savanna elephant range and counted over 93 percent of their populations across a million miles of territory in 81 airplanes, and ultimately recorded an estimated population of just 352,271 for the entire continent.

Among the worst declines were Angola (22% decline), Mozambique (53% decline) and Tanzania (60% decline). These figures, says Chase "were much greater than previously known and expected, and mainly due to staggeringly high levels of poaching."

Extremely low numbers of elephants were also found in northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, northern Cameroon and southwest Zambia. Chase believes that the "populations there face local extinction."

Chase and his team were not only counting live elephants but dead ones too. In the countries with declining live elephants there were correspondingly high carcass ratios. A carcass ratio is the percentage of dead elephants observed during the count. For example, a carcass ratio of 10 percent indicates the survey team recorded one dead elephant for every 9 live elephants that were counted.  

On average, a carcass ratio of more than 8% indicates poaching at a level high enough to cause a declining population. The highest carcass ratios occurred in: Cameroon (83%); Mozambique (32%); Angola (30%); Tanzania (26%).

The carcass ratio continent-wide was 11.9%, meaning that elephants in general are declining across the continent

There are other notable statistics. Regional areas in both Zimbabwe and Zambia, especially along the Zambezi valley, are showing that poachers are decimating elephant numbers. Zimbabwe's overall population was down by 6% with a carcass ratio of 8 %, which is bad enough, but within the Sebungwe region, on the Zambezi River and Lake Kariba north of Hwange National Park, populations were down a whopping 74% while Zambia experienced a startling 85% carcass ratio in Sioma Ngwezi Park on the border with Namibia and Angola.
In contrast, Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, parts of Malawi, and the W-Arli-Pendjari conservation complex of protected areas that span Benin, Niger and Burkina Faso were found to have stable or slightly increasing elephant populations. The W-Arli-Pendjari area is the only largesavannah elephant population left in West Africa.

Namibia also showed increasing numbers of elephants especially in the Zambezi-Caprivi area, but this is possibly because the territory runs the length of the unfenced border with Botswana, the country with the largest single population of elephants, which stands at about 130,000 strong. The bulk of Botswana's elephants are in the north close to Namibia. And since elephants are not confined by national boundaries there is a constant movement of large herds between the two countries.

However, there are worrying signs for both Namibia and Botswana.

While Namibia was not officially surveyed by the GEC, aerial surveys that took off in northern Botswana to survey southern Angola and Zambia had to fly flew over the Zambezi-Caprivi strip of Namibia. Chase, who has independently been surveying the area for the past decade and a half says, "Ironically, Namibia's increase of elephants in the area coincides with the highest mortality/carcass ratios over a 15 year period." He also mentions that helicopter pilots inspecting a power-line along the Zambezi-Caprivi strip recently estimated nearly 200 carcasses from the Kavango River to Katima Mulilo, a distance of just 60 kilometres. This indicates that poachers who are causing carnage just across the border in Angola and Zambia have been operating on the Namibian side of the Zambezi River with increasing intensity.

Botswana, even though it is the bastion of African savanna elephants and home to one-third of the entire continent's population, is not immune to high levels of poaching. The total elephant population of the country has decreased by 15% in just the last five years.

Namibia and Botswana along with Zimbabwe and South Africa have their elephants listed under Appendix II by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), meaning that under certain conditions they may export ivory. In fact, Zimbabwe and Namibia have called for a lifting of those restrictions at the next CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP 17), which begins on the 24th of this month in Johannesburg, South Africa. Both nations cite good management policies of their elephants.

However, the latest figures for Zimbabwe suggest the exact opposite. The country easily meets the CITES criteria – an annual decline rate of just under 1% - for an Appendix I listing, or a full ban on any commercial international ivory trading. Namibia's high carcass ratio warrants the same treatment.

Out of the four Appendix II countries only South Africa, with it's fenced in populations of elephants, appears to have escaped the scourge – although in the last two years the Kruger National park has seen a dramatic spike from zero poaching-related elephant deaths per year to over 20 for both 2015 and 2016.  If the runaway poaching of rhinos is anything to go by, South Africa might soon be overrun a flood of ivory poachers.

"These GEC figures are a shocking wake up call for those about to debate the future of ivory trade," says Sally Case, CEO of the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation a non-bureaucratic organization that supports a range of innovative, vital and far-reaching conservation projects throughout Africa, "They show a loss of elephants at a spine-chilling level; there can no longer be any justification for debating a future trade in ivory which is driving losses on this scale."

In contrast to Namibia and Zimbabwe's proposals, a group of 29 African countries from West, Central and East Africa united under the African Elephant Coalition (AEC), which covers 70% of the elephant range, earlier this year tabled a suite of five proposals to be presented at CoP 17. These are designed to provide for a comprehensive and full protection for Africa's elephants and include a proposal listing all elephants across the continent under Appendix I.

"The call by the AEC for an Appendix I uplisting, which unti l has received stiff opposition from the southern African states, many European countries and some NGO's such as the World Wildlife Fund, seems to have been vindicated by the latest GEC results", says Vera Weber President and CEO of Fondation Franz Weber, a partner organization to the AEC. "An uplisting, which is aimed at sending a clear message to consumers that buying ivory is illegal, will at least be one step toward arresting the population free-fall of one of the world's most iconic of species," she says.


- Agencies

 0

You May Like These Videos

Comments

There are no comments.

Latest stories

The newfound freedom to speak our mind

by Mike, Harare | 25 April 2018 | 12 Views

3 game ultimatum for Dembare's Lloyd Mutasa

by Staff reporter | 25 April 2018 | 50 Views

Dembare legends raise the red flag

by Staff reporter | 25 April 2018 | 40 Views

Pupil steals $1 000 from teacher

by Staff reporter | 25 April 2018 | 51 Views

Police undergo customer relations training

by Staff reporter | 25 April 2018 | 38 Views

'Chart path towards Zimdollar return'

by Staff reporter | 25 April 2018 | 50 Views

Ngezi Platinum to defend home record

by Staff reporter | 25 April 2018 | 31 Views

Zimbabwe seeks place in global village

by Staff reporter | 25 April 2018 | 31 Views

Govt promise to urgently resolve nurses' grievances

by Staff reporter | 25 April 2018 | 35 Views

Econet rewards brand ambassadors in Matebeleland

by Staff reporter | 25 April 2018 | 33 Views

Chivayo fails to complete pre-commencement works

by Staff reporter | 25 April 2018 | 32 Views

Middle class economy possible, says CZI

by Staff reporter | 25 April 2018 | 19 Views

Bribe attempts at Nust DNA centre

by Staff reporter | 25 April 2018 | 38 Views

Gangster 'killer' surrenders self to police

by Staff reporter | 25 April 2018 | 41 Views

Tendai Ndoro loses, goes to Safa arbitration

by Staff reporter | 25 April 2018 | 36 Views

3 men claim paternity for 1 child

by Staff reporter | 25 April 2018 | 37 Views

Lecturer tries to bed student in office

by Staff reporter | 25 April 2018 | 42 Views

Man refuses to maintain 'drunkard' wife

by Staff reporter | 25 April 2018 | 27 Views

3-yr- old drowns in well while mum entertains lover

by Staff reporter | 25 April 2018 | 29 Views

Mnangagwa enrols for PhD

by Staff reporter | 25 April 2018 | 26 Views

2 presidential candidates for MDC-T?

by Staff reporter | 25 April 2018 | 47 Views

Chamisa's legitimacy woes mount

by Staff reporter | 25 April 2018 | 16 Views

Zanu-PF campaign hit by 'fictitious registers'

by Staff reporter | 25 April 2018 | 23 Views

Khama Billiat contract matter closed, says Mosimane

by Staff reporter | 25 April 2018 | 13 Views

Village gossip sparks family violence

by Staff reporter | 25 April 2018 | 16 Views

Ritual killing: Victim's body unclaimed for 11 months

by Staff rpeorter | 25 April 2018 | 14 Views

4 die in road accidents

by Staff reporter | 25 April 2018 | 17 Views

Zanu-PF embraces devolution

by Staff reporter | 25 April 2018 | 14 Views

'Chamisa taking rural folk for a ride'

by Staff reporter | 25 April 2018 | 14 Views

'Mujuru party ready to join hands with MDC-T'

by Staff reporter | 25 April 2018 | 17 Views

Military bosses must undertake to respect free, fair polls

by Staff reporter | 25 April 2018 | 15 Views

Mnangagwa to meet war veterans

by Staff reporter | 25 April 2018 | 14 Views

Mukupe, Gumbo renew Harare East fight

by Staff reporter | 25 April 2018 | 15 Views

When firing backfires

by Paul Kaseke | 25 April 2018 | 43 Views

New contractor gets Chirundu-Beitbridge highway tender

by Staff reprteer | 25 April 2018 | 20 Views

Nurses, Chiwenga impasse hearing date set

by Staff reporter | 25 April 2018 | 15 Views

Chamisa, Khupe fight takes a new twist

by Staff reporter | 25 April 2018 | 15 Views

Zimbabwean judge in nasty land row in Namibia

by Staff reporter | 25 April 2018 | 15 Views