IUCN Data On African Elephants 

#GS3 #CONSERVATION #BIODIVERSITY

Context 

Recently, Africa’s forest and savanna elephants have been listed as ‘critically endangered’ and ‘endangered respectively by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

  • The current population of the two species combined is around 415,000 and earlier, both were earlier listed as ‘vulnerable’.

 What are African Forest Elephant?

  • Scientific name: Loxodonta cyclotis.
  • Habitat
    • Mainly found in the Congo basin in west Africa, it lives in dense tropical rainforest. It has a more restricted natural distribution.
    • Gabon is home to the largest remaining population of forest elephants.
  • Physical Features
    • They have smaller, rounded ears. Their tusks point downwards, occasionally reaching the ground in older males, and their body is higher over the back legs.
    • They are smaller than their savanna relatives with the males rarely exceeding 2.5 metres at the shoulder.
  • These are essential to the survival of the rainforest (and its carbon storage) through their dispersal of seeds, delivery of compost and mineral-rich dung, and thinning of saplings.
  • Their pink ivory is denser and more easily carved into intricate statues so it is preferred by the hunters and poachers.
  • The population of African forest elephants has plunged by 86 per cent in the last 31 years which is concerning as these are likely to recover much more slowly.
    • They live in smaller family groups and have longer gestation periods than their savanna relatives, meaning that populations targeted by illegal hunting are often slow to recover.

African Savanna Elephant

  • Scientific name: Loxodonta africana.
  • Habitat
    • They prefer an open country and are found in a variety of habitats in sub-Saharan Africa including grasslands and deserts.
  • Physical Features
    • They have large ears that are the shape of Africa and allow them to cool their bodies more easily, and longer front legs, unlike their forest elephant relatives.
    • These are the biggest terrestrial animals on Earth, reaching up to 4 metres at the shoulder.
  • They live in larger familial groups in grasslands and deserts, roaming huge distances.
  • In response to the intense poaching of savanna elephants, the ivory trade was banned in the 1980s.
  • Their population has dropped by 60 per cent in the last 50 years but their numbers have been stable or growing. Their population can bounce back given sufficient protection.
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                                                       (Image Courtesy: National Geographic)

Threats 

  • Both species suffered sharp declines since 2008 due to a significant increase in poaching.
    • Poaching for ivory has been the scourge of African elephants over the past several decades. As both males and females possess tusks, the impact of ivory poaching is especially severe.
  • The ongoing conversion of their habitats, primarily to agricultural and other land uses, is another significant threat.
  • Another threat is the climate emergency. Due to climate stress, 80% of the fruit production of the rainforest trees has been compromised and the elephants are thinner than before.

Conservation Efforts

  • Stopping Poaching
    • The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) strives to eliminate illegal hunting in protected areas and end the hunting of forest elephants.
    • The Sangha Tri-national Anti-poaching Brigade of Gabon, Congo and Central African Republic, is an example of WWF’s regional approach to tackle illegal elephant poaching.
    • It has also established Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) methodologies in several protected area sites.
  • Tackling Illegal Trade
    • WWF and TRAFFIC, the world’s largest wildlife trade monitoring network, support a Central African Forest Commission commitment to put a regional network called PAPECALF.
    • This includes implementing the CITES Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) which monitors and tracks elephant ivory seizures.
    • It calls for increased anti poaching efforts, joint patrols in some transboundary areas, better customs controls at international transit points, more intense investigations, etc.
  • Bringing Benefits To Communities
    • WWF helps find investors and offers business training to conservancy members.
    • Tourism creates employment and fosters a variety of other sources of revenue, such as craft markets.
  • Easing Human-elephant Conflict
    • Chili bombs,” a mixture of dried elephant dung and hot chili, are placed in crop fields to keep elephants away as they do not like the smell of chili.
    • WWF has helped hundreds of villages implement practical measures to protect their crops and property from elephants.

Way forward and suggestions associated.

  • Well-managed conservation areas.
  • Policymakers and the ones with resources will have to come forward for active participation and to take up inclusive conservation measures.
  • Problematic law enforcement has to be changed in many Central African countries which are home to these elephants.
  • With persistent demand for ivory and escalating human pressures on Africa’s wildlands, everyone needs to creatively conserve and wisely manage these animals.

Source: IUCN 

 

 

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