Elephant poaching has a very real problem for a very long time. Tens of thousands of elephants are killed every year for their ivory. The fact that it’s illegal does not manage to change anything and the species is threatening to go extinct.
Now, a new study conducted by the University of Washington has revealed that most elephant poaching in Africa is limited to just two (2) areas – Tanzania in the east, and an area that includes Gabon, Republic of Congo, Cameroon and the Central African Republic in the central-western.
It’s an important finding that can help law enforcement officials and scientists improve their efforts in these locations, especially since these locations can no longer deny the severity of the problem that takes place in their back yard. The lead author of the study shared that up to 50.000 elephants lose their life every year so that hunters can collect their ivory.
Sam Wasser, lead author and director of the UW Center for Conservation Biology, gave a statement informing that “If poaching is happening everywhere, it becomes a very daunting challenge. But if you look at where the killing is taking place, and we’re able to narrow it down to just two (2) places, now you’ve got a real game changer”.
For their study, the scientists looked at 28 sizeable shipments of confiscated ivory from all over the world, between the years of 1996 and 2014. They ended up analyzing more than half a ton of ivory.
The team extracted DNA from the ivory and compared it to a reference map containing genetic signatures. They saw that there were clear genetic differences between elephants from different areas and were able to pinpoint an animals home land within 60 to 180 miles, even managing to limit it to a specific park.
Wasser and his team found that most of it came from Tanzania and the area including several places in central-western Africa. These places are believed to be plagued with crime syndicates, mist likely aided by corrupt law enforcement.
More than 85 percent (85%) of illegal ivory from elephants living in Africa’s savannas has been coming from Tanzania and northern Mozambique since 2006, while more than 85 percent (85%) of illegal ivory from elephants living in forests has been coming from Tridom protected ecosystem as well as a nearby reserve.
Tanzania in particular has done a very poor job of protecting their elephants and dealing with the problem. It has petitioned the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) several times, asking them to ease up on the required protections for their animals, so that they can kill elephants and sell large stockpiles of ivory. What’s more, they deny recent reports informing that the number of elephants has continued to drop in the Ruaha-Rungwa ecosystem.
The unfortunate situation that elephants find themselves in has not been without efforts to prevent tragedies such as their extinction, however many poachers, and worse, even state officials are much more interested in making a profit. There are currently only 500.000 elephants left in Africa, possibly fewer. They’ve typically dropped in number by 10 percent (10%) each year.
The study was published in the journal Science, earlier this week, on Thursday (June 18, 2015).
Image Source: nationalgeographic.com