Missing: 2,000 elephants

Dec 11, 2008

Elephants in Zakouma National Park, the last stronghold for the savanna elephants of Central Africa's Sahel region, now hover at about 1,000 animals, down from an estimated 3,000 in 2006. Ivory poachers using automatic weapons have decimated elephant populations – particularly when herds venture seasonally outside of the park.

Civil unrest in has made conservation exceedingly difficult in Chad. Several park guards have been shot and killed in recent years. However, safety conditions have recently improved somewhat and WCS is optimistic that it can increase on-the-ground elephant conservation work in and around Zakouma to protect the remaining population.

"The situation in Zakouma is dire, but there is still time to save the park's remaining elephants provided we can marshal the forces we need to stop poaching," said WCS President and CEO Dr. Steven E. Sanderson. "We need to continue to work closely with Zakouma's dedicated park guards and give them what they need to do their jobs, while our own field staff provide aerial reconnaissance and technical support."

WCS has established a fund to help save Zakouma's surviving elephants. Members of the public can support this critical effort by going to: www.wcs.org/elephants. History has shown that elephants can recover in Zakouma. Until this recent spate in poaching, elephant numbers have rebounded from an estimated 1,100 in 1985 to as many as 3,500 in early 2006.

The Wildlife Conservation Society first sounded the alarm two years ago when WCS researcher and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Mike Fay noticed a steep drop in the region's elephant numbers during his "MegaFlyover" of some of Africa's last wild places. Additional research, including radio-collaring and tracking individual animals, revealed that poaching was once again decimating these herds. A WCS pilot and light-aircraft permanently based in Zakouma now provides information to Chad's park service about poaching activities and elephant herd locations. "Zakouma is a last stand for elephants in the Sahel," said Fay. "It's incredibly heartbreaking to stand before a dead elephant missing only its tusks. How can we stand idly by and watch this population continue to get slaughtered because of simple human greed?"

CNN's "Planet in Peril" series—airing on Thursday, December 11th—gives a gripping account of the situation in Zakouma.

Efforts to save the African elephant have come from various levels of government and the international community, including the United States government. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through its African Elephant Conservation Funds has invested more than $18 million across Africa since 1990. These funds have leveraged an additional $74 million through conservation organizations such as WCS, private donations, foundations, corporations, and other support.

Several WCS supporters have provided funds to purchase a used Cessna 185, recruit seasoned bush pilot Darren Potgieter, and begin aerial surveillance of the Zakouma landscape to strengthen the efforts of the small band of the government's courageous park rangers. These overflights not only facilitate monitoring elephant numbers in difficult terrain, but have proven to intimidate poachers in the act of stalking and poaching elephants. The flights also boost the morale of the park rangers who work in dangerous conditions with little equipment.

The African elephant is listed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and has seen a drastic reduction in total population across its range. In the 1900s, approximately 10 million elephants roamed across sub-Saharan Africa while today less than ten percent of that remain in the wild.

Source: Wildlife Conservation Society

Explore further: Native vegetation makes a comeback on Santa Cruz Island

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

US threatened Yahoo with huge fine over surveillance

34 minutes ago

US authorities threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day if it failed to comply with a secret surveillance program requiring it to hand over user data in the name of national security, court documents showed Thursday.

Microbes evolve faster than ocean can disperse them

35 minutes ago

Two Northeastern University researchers and their international colleagues have created an advanced model aimed at exploring the role of neutral evolution in the biogeographic distribution of ocean microbes.

Recommended for you

Native vegetation makes a comeback on Santa Cruz Island

8 minutes ago

On islands, imported plants and animals can spell ecological disaster. The Aleutians, the Galápagos, the Falklands, Hawaii, and countless other archipelagoes have seen species such as rats, goats, brown ...

Power lines offer environmental benefits

38 minutes ago

Power lines, long considered eyesores or worse, a potential threat to human health, actually serve a vital role in maintaining the health of a significant population, according to new research out of the ...

New dawn for pasta wheat in Australia

1 hour ago

The University of Adelaide's durum breeding program today at the Hart Field Day will release a new durum wheat variety called DBA-Aurora which promises a step-change in potential durum production in southern Australia.

Japan's whaling bid tested by world panel

3 hours ago

Japan's plans to resume a controversial Antarctic whale hunt in the name of research, which opponents say is really just for the meat, came under scrutiny in Slovenia on Tuesday.

User comments : 0