An international effort to halt the illegal killing of elephants for their ivory tusks has all but collapsed in most of Africa, leaving officials and advocates alarmed about the survival of the species. A study released yesterday estimates that as many as 23,000 of the animals were slaughtered last year alone.
“Almost half of Africa’s elephants had been slaughtered in the eight years before the ban, but now the situation is even more extreme because the number of animals is so much lower to begin with,” [Sam Wasser of the University of Washington] said. “And unlike in the late ’80s, the public has forgotten about this issue.”
Elephants have a long reproductive cycle, and a complex social structure that is badly disrupted by the losses from poaching older individuals. Do not buy ivory, and do not let up pressure on nations like Zambia in which poaching is widespread.
Some southern African nations are undertaking culls of wild elephant populations in order to prevent overpopulation and dangerous interactions with surrounding human populations. The nations which undertake that culling have been successful in protecting their elephants, and must now manage those populations. The problem lies in those nations which have not controlled poaching, where elephant populations continue to decline.