Here at Real Africa we keep an eye out for stories about poaching and the dangers to local wildlife across Africa. It is an issue that deeply concerns us and has led to us supporting the work at the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya who are active conservationists battling on a daily basis against poaching.
The latest news is from Tanzania, where reports indicate that elephant numbers have fallen by as much as 42% over the past 3 years. This is a hugely significant number – almost half the Tanzanian elephant population! The elephant census was carried out at the Selous Game Reserve and Mikumi National Park both important and protected game reserves in Tanzania. The census revealed elephant numbers had plunged from 74,900 in 2006 down to just 43,552 in 2009. The census was carried out by the east African country’s wildlife authority who are deeply concerned about the dwindling population and the escalation of poaching.
The rapid fall prompted Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete to order an investigation, announced his office last Tuesday. Conservationists estimate Tanzania has a total elephant population of between 110,000 and 140,000, making it one of the largest sanctuaries in Africa. However in recent years, both Tanzania and neighbouring Kenya have suffered a massive rise in poaching as criminal gangs have killed elephants and rhinos for their tusks and horns which they then sell throughout Asia. The last Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 2007 agreed to a nine-year moratorium on any further trade in ivory, after some 105 tons of elephant ivory had been sold from Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe to China and Japan. TRAFFIC, a conservation group that tracks trends in wildlife trading, said in a statement last week that 2011 had sadly been a record year for ivory seizure.
Elephants are also under pressure in many parts of Africa from other issues affecting them such as loss of their natural habitat to humans, pollution from developing industry and climate change leading to severe droughts. Recent estimates say that the population has fallen to somewhere around 500,000 from millions just decades ago.