African elephants could be extinct in the wild within a decade
African elephants are among the most iconic symbols of the majesty of nature. They are highly social herbivores who travel in groups. There are two living species in Africa, the African bush elephant and the African forest elephant, and four extinct species identified through fossil remains. African elephants are distinguished from their Asian counterparts by their larger overall size, as well as their larger ears and tusks.
It is estimated that there may have been more than 26 million African elephants in the late 19th century. By the time of the first elephant census in 1974, there were approximately 1.34 million. As of 2019, their numbers were down to approximately 415,000. At current rates, African elephants could be extinct in the wild within a decade or two. This precipitous decline has numerous causes including loss of habitat, human-elephant conflict, poaching, and others.
African elephants once ranged across large swaths of the continent. However, a 2007 UN Survey showed their range has been reduced to approximately 15% of total land cover. This reduction includes more exact mapping of their territory, as well as habitat loss. Since 1989, African elephants have been listed as ‘Endangered’ by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
24/7 Wall St: How Many Elephants are Left in the Wild: https://247wallst.com/special-report/2019/08/07/how-many-elephants-are-left-in-the-wild/
CITES: The CITES Appendices https://cites.org/eng/app/index.php
UN Environment Programme: https://www.grida.no/resources/8035
Wikipedia: African Elephant: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_elephant
Threats Facing African Elephants
Across both Africa and Asia, there once roamed millions of elephants. In the 1980s, that number plummeted to around one million with 70,000 being killed per year due to hunting of elephants and unregulated trade in their ivory. Today, the number of African elephants is at a record low of 470,000. MFE firmly believes that if we do not take action today, elephant populations will be decimated and this species will be at risk of extinction.
With an international ivory ban in place through CITES, as well an interstate (state to state) ban by USFWS, ivory traffickers continue to exploit federal loopholes and mix illegal ivory in with legal sales (that of which is considered “antique” ivory).
The US is the second largest ivory market in the world with Massachusetts being the seventh largest market in the country. The proof is in the findings of recent reporting by the Humane Society of the United States, which found nearly 700 ivory items for sale by 64 vendors within the Bay State.
If Massachusetts continues to drag its feet on ramping up ivory market controls, we will be continuing to facilitate a market that would be responsible for lending in great part to the extinction of one of the most iconic species on earth.
It is due in large part to Massachusetts’ facilitation of an abundant intrastate ivory and rhino horn market that 100 elephants are killed every single day for their tusks. They are killed by highly criminalized syndicates, with automatic weapons and by poisoning. Inaction is not an option for elephants
While trade regulations are in effect, ivory smuggling is frequent and Interpol reports highly organized wildlife trafficking syndicates around the globe. Just five years ago, in 2015, Interpol conducted an operation targeted specifically at the elephant ivory trade circuit, which brought down close to 400 arrests, the seizure of 4.5 tons of elephant ivory and the investigation of 25 crime networks working in the illicit trade. And, in 2016, a record 40 tons of trafficked ivory was seized throughout the year.
While the conservation of elephants can provide widespread economic opportunities for elephant range states and livelihood opportunities for local people, Human-Elephant Conflict or HEC is a very real threat facing elephant populations today. HEC is defined as a complex interaction between humans and elephants in which they have a detrimental impact on each other. HEC is owed to habitat loss and fragmentation for elephants and the results can be deadly for both people and elephants.
It is the role of conservation and wildlife protection organizations to bridge the gap and forge local connections that can foster living harmoniously together. Providing employment for locals and providing loans to farmers targeted by elephants are examples of mutually beneficial strategies that will help communities recognize the worth of living in peace with the flagship species that is their neighbor and is so vital to the ecosystem, and the biodiversity, that the livelihoods of local people depend upon.