News Article | February 13, 2017
There is so much being done to help stop elephants being wiped out in the wild. We’ve identified more than 50 campaigns and organisations around the world, from well-known charities like the World Wide Fund for Nature to grassroots groups like Elephanatics in Canada and Laos-based ElefantAsia. If you think we’ve missed anyone or anything, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll update the list with your suggestions. Please note, however: presence on this list does not constitute an endorsement. Organisations take differing approaches to elephant conservation, and even the most secure-looking can run into financial difficulties. As a conscientious giver it is your responsibility to make sure your contribution will be used wisely. Set up petitions, organise marches, lobby politicians or just spread the word: there are a number of ways in which you can campaign and really make an impact. There are many inspiring grassroots groups that do amazing work; why not join one of these, or set up your own if there’s none in your country? In the UK, Action for Elephants has organised marches and talks to highlight the importance of banning the ivory trade. This grassroots group also campaigns against keeping elephants in captivity. Even though 179 countries have signed up to Cites, the UN’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, the illegal trade in wild animals remains a multibillion-dollar industry. The Bloody Ivory campaign aims to put pressure on Cites to do more to prevent poaching and ivory trafficking. Its online petition to tackle the black market in ivory has 56,000 signatures (and counting) and will be presented at the next Cites meeting in 2019. Based in Vancouver, Canada, Elephanatics aims to raise awareness of the poaching crisis and ensure the long-term survival of elephants through education, conservation and fun activities like the annual global march for elephants and rhinos. Inspired by her childhood in Africa, Joyce Poole has been studying elephant behaviour and communication for more than 30 years. She has a particular interest in how poaching and habitat destruction affects herds’ social dynamics. Through ElephantVoices, which she founded in 2002, Poole campaigns for elephants and promotes research and conservation projects, while providing others with the resources they need to do the same. Conducting the first pan-African aerial survey of elephant populations in 40 years and covering 345,000 square miles across 18 countries, this ambitious project set out to count and map Africa’s savannah elephants. The final report, published last year, showed a 30% fall in numbers over the last seven years. While the census itself is complete, the organisation is now using its database to help governments, scientists and NGOs manage and protect elephant populations. Committed to bringing an end to animal poaching and trafficking, IFAW campaigns for the bolstering of wildlife trade policy with supranational organisations such as the UN and the EU, while helping to train customs agents and wildlife rangers. It also investigates online crime. This offshoot of WildAid – one of the largest conservation groups working to eliminate demand for wildlife products such as elephant ivory and rhino horn – is responsible for the #JoinTheHerd campaign. Showing your support is as easy as uploading a photo of yourself – which the website then stitches to one of an elephant – and sharing the resultant image on social media, with the #JoinTheHerd hashtag. This non-profit aims to fight ivory trafficking on every front, training rangers, supplying sniffer dogs, working to make ivory less prestigious … Responsible for the #SaveElephants social media campaign, it also provides plenty of highly shareable pictures for your own activities. Named after the 96 animals killed for their ivory every day in Africa, this offshoot of the Wildlife Conservation Society works to highlight the plight of elephants and supports organisations caring for them around the world. Campaigns include Origami for Elephants (“create your own customised digital origami elephant”) and the #ElephantYogaChallenge (“You can help save elephants with yoga”). Putting pressure on politicians both at home and overseas is a powerful way to effect change. Save the Asian Elephant provides template letters and contact details for top-ranking officials, including the British prime minister, Theresa May, and India’s minister for tourism, Dr Mahesh Sharma, which you can use to urge them to follow through on their promises to protect Asian elephants. A grassroots organisation dedicated to raising awareness about the ivory trade and the fate of elephants across Africa. It offers a space to share knowledge, lobby government and join marches. Founded by two zoology students from the University of Exeter, this little organisation focuses on producing short films that target a wildlife crime or human-wildlife conflict issue. These are then shown to affected communities through a bicycle-powered cinema. In Malawi, Stop Wildlife Crime, Protect Malawi’s Wildlife, about elephants and the illegal ivory trade, was shown to more than 14,000 people. This World Wide Fund for Nature initiative is focused on ending Thailand’s ivory trade – once the world’s second largest – and has already enjoyed much success. In 2015, its efforts helped the Thai government to pass new regulations, while last year’s Ivory-Free Thailand campaign enlisted the help of local celebrities to discourage consumers from buying or accepting gifts of ivory. Launched by the World Elephant Society, which creates and distributes educational information about elephant conservation, World Elephant Day (12 August) asks elephant-lovers the world over to share their appreciation of these endangered animals. Youth 4 African Wildlife works with young people in the hope that they’ll become global conservation ambassadors. It offers conservation internships for people from all over the world, and also raises awareness through community outreach in the greater Kruger National Park area in South Africa. If you want to help elephants and have time to spare, these organisations want to hear from you. Some offer hybrid travel and volunteering experiences that will let you interact with elephants in their own habitat. Others need assistance with campaigns or administration. As always, make sure you understand their aims and approaches before signing up. Set in the lush countryside of Thailand’s northern Mae Chaem district, this sanctuary serves as a retirement community for some of the country’s 4,000-plus registered captive elephants, which have endured long lives of hard graft and exploitation, predominantly within the tourism and logging industries. Tasks for volunteers range from feeding and bathing the animals to teaching English to local children. With stays at the charity’s Cambodian elephant sanctuary lasting anywhere between one and four weeks, a good level of fitness is a must, as volunteers are expected to spend much of their time hiking through the Mondulkiri province’s mountainous terrain. Activities include observing the elephants in their natural habitat and planting seedlings to counteract deforestation. Elephants in Lagos are traditionally used in logging and worked to the point of exhaustion. The Conservation Center is home to the country’s first elephant hospital dedicated to victims of logging accidents, and has an elephant breeding programme. Reliant on donations and fees from volunteers, the centre invites visitors to learn about elephants and the importance of conservation in their natural environment. A useful starting point for any well-intentioned volunteer who doesn’t quite know where to start. There are dozens of opportunities across Africa and Asia to choose from, including data collection and research projects in Thailand, community outreach and wildlife education programmes in South Africa, and hands-on caretaking roles in a Sri Lankan elephant sanctuary. Human-animal conflict is one of the greatest threats to some of the world’s most at-risk elephant populations. The Great Projects links volunteers to conservation efforts in Asia and Africa; these include protecting the Namibian desert elephants – whose slowly recovering numbers were as low as 300 in the 1990s – by working with the local farmers, who frequently come into violent contact with the animals. Dedicated to protecting the Asian elephant, Save the Elephant Foundation provides a safe home for rescued elephants in its Elephant Nature Park in Chang Mai, Thailand. It invites volunteers and visitors to spend time with the animals, feeding, bathing and giving them care and affection in their natural habitat. One of the largest human-elephant conflict resolution projects in the world, this scheme run by the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society sees volunteers muck in across a wide variety of tasks. Daily activities might include observing elephant herds, identifying game trails, developing a dialogue with local communities, or maintaining the scenically situated base camp in north-western Sri Lanka. Giving money may seem the easiest way to help a cause you believe in. But deciding which organisation to donate to can be a daunting task. Some will use the money across their programmes, while others will let you back specific projects. Be sure to check that the organisation is legitimate and fits your objectives. Study its website, check its credentials and search the web to learn about its reputation and status. In addition to government regulators, these organisations provide advice for charitable giving: Charity Navigator, GuideStar, Charity Watch and GreatNonprofits. The rangers who risk their lives to prevent wildlife poaching and trafficking make little money and often spend months at a time away from their families. A guaranteed 100% of donations to this WWF-run initiative fund the equipment and infrastructure they need to do their jobs effectively and safely. For more than 30 years Born Free has been working to keep wildlife in the wild. You can support its work by (symbolically) adopting either orphaned Asian elephant calf Jubilee, or African elephant Emily Kate, who now has a calf of her own. The welcome pack includes a cuddly toy and personalised adoption certificate. Since its creation three years ago, this joint initiative between Save the Elephants and the Wildlife Conservation Network has channelled donations to the areas where elephant populations are collapsing the quickest, and the projects on the ground best placed to do something about it. Its celebrity-backed anti-ivory campaign in China played a vital role in changing policy in the country. With donations funding information-gathering operations and deep-cover field investigations, the EAL adopts an intelligence-led approach to uncovering and disrupting the criminal networks behind poaching and ivory trafficking. As well as using specialist investigators to infiltrate the criminal organisations profiting from the exploitation of wildlife, the EIA runs evidence-backed campaigns to advocate for meaningful policy change at a governmental level. Investigations typically cost between £10,000 and £20,000 and rely on donations from the public. Rather than paying into a pot that the charity will redistribute as it sees fit, this foundation allows donors to choose a specific programme and guarantees that 100% of their donation will reach their intended recipients. There are more than 20 research and conservation projects to choose from, including the Mounted Horse Patrol Anti-Poaching Unit for Mount Kenya. As well as its own investigative and policy work, the IFAW partners with media organisations around the world to raise awareness of the illegal ivory trade and the destruction it causes. Donations help to fund future media campaigns and awareness-raising projects. From elephants and tigers to chameleons and carnivorous plants, this research project run by the International Union for Conservation of Nature is aiming to gauge the health of the world’s biodiversity by assessing 160,000 species by 2020. It’s almost halfway there. Donations will support this ongoing research as well as supporting on-the-ground conservation projects. Elephants and tigers play vital roles in the ecosystem, and JTEF aims to raise awareness of their importance. It has several programmes to support conservation work, and reduce Japanese demand for wildlife products. It’s not just elephants and other wildlife that are at the mercy of the poachers’ weapons: more than 1,000 park rangers are estimated to have been killed in the past decade simply for standing in their way. This Australian-run foundation seeks to “protect nature’s protectors” by providing training and vital anti-poaching equipment, while also offering financial support to the families of those killed in the line of duty. Wild Philanthropy supports at-risk ecosystems and communities in Africa through grants to NGOs that are involved in managing protected areas. It also provides secured loans to local eco-tourist businesses.. As an all-volunteer organisation, the WAF uses every penny donated to help secure the longevity of animals and the delicate ecosystems that they inhabit. To show your support for elephants specifically – rather than the plethora of protected species ranging from fireflies to fish – you can symbolically adopt one for $35 (£28) a year. When elephants come into contact with farmland, they can wreak havoc and destroy livelihoods by eating or crushing crops. Many farmers respond by setting out poison or taking other extreme measures. World Animal Protection works with communities to come up with simple and sustainable solutions that allow humans and elephants to coexist, such as the introduction of chilli fences in Mikumi National Park in Tanzania. Most poaching takes place after dark, when rangers aren’t around. This initiative from the Lindbergh Foundation runs drone operations at night in collaboration with local rangers. With thermal imaging sensors, it can locate wildlife as well as poachers, and position rangers before an incident takes place. In two years of testing in a park in South Africa that had been losing 18 rhinos a week, not one animal was lost. Air Shepherd has now conducted around 5,000 missions, across South Africa, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Stepping in where local governments are unwilling or unable to act, African Parks manages 10 national parks in seven countries, taking complete responsibility for the day-to-day management and preservation of 6 million hectares of protected land. Already employing 600 rangers – the largest counter-poaching force on the continent – it aims to increase its conservation operation by 2020 to 20 parks and more than 10m hectares. The communities who share their land with elephants are best placed to conserve their natural heritage, but they often lack the means to do so. The African Wildlife Foundation recruits, trains and equips wildlife scouts from these areas, providing employment opportunities to local people and creating a large and effective poaching deterrent in the process. Renowned wildlife researcher and conservationist Cynthia Moss has been studying elephants in the Amboseli National Park, straddling the Kenya-Tanzania border, since the early 1970s. She founded the Amboseli Trust for Elephants after seeing elephant populations in Kenya plummet by an estimated 85%. As well as groundbreaking scientific research, the trust conducts extensive community outreach programmes with the local Maasai community. One such scheme compensates anyone who has lost livestock to elephants, which has more than halved the number of animals speared and killed in retribution. Policing the 2m acres of elephant habitat in the Amboseli-Tsavo-Kilimanjaro region of east Africa takes courage and dedication, with wildlife rangers spending weeks in remote outposts, putting their lives at risk every day. The Big Life Foundation employs hundreds of Maasai rangers, providing them with field units, vehicles, tracker dogs and aerial surveillance. You can support their efforts by joining the Ranger Club with a one-off or monthly donation. An elephant calf depends on its mother’s milk for the first two years of its life. So when one becomes orphaned – often because its mother has fallen foul of ivory poachers – the calf’s life hangs in the balance. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust fosters, feeds and rears these orphaned calves, eventually reintroducing them to the wild in the Tsavo East National Park. To date, 150 calves have been saved in this way. A research-based organisation that began life as Save the Elephants – South Africa, Elephants Alive! has been monitoring one of South Africa’s largest continuous elephant populations for over 20 years. It believes that extensive knowledge of elephants’ movements and needs is vital to ensure their long-term survival. An offshoot of the Wildland Conservation Trust, this non-profit organisation works with Maasai communities in Kenya to help elephants and other wildlife. On the banks of the Zambezi river, where Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe share a border, lies the town of Kazungula, from where Elephants Without Borders (EWB) runs its transnational conservation operation. African elephants regularly cross these international boundaries, leaving them at the mercy of changeable policy and conservation laws. Using state-of-the-art monitoring technology, EWB tracks their movements and works with the local authorities to create safe migratory corridors through which the elephants can move freely. In Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, elephant and other wildlife populations are at risk from bone-dry summers as well as from humans. In 2005, a particularly devastating drought saw scores of animals lose their lives. On the back of this disaster, Friends of Hwange was formed to pump water from underground sources, providing waterholes even in the most extreme conditions. Zambia sits at the heart of southern Africa, surrounded by four countries identified by Cites as centres of ivory poaching and trafficking. The Game Rangers International Wildlife Crime Prevention Project works with conservation organisations and law enforcement to end the illegal wildlife trade in and through Zambia. Malawi is one of the poorest, and fastest-growing, countries in the world, which is putting its natural habitat under severe strain. In 2008 the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust launched its first project, the Wildlife Centre, as a sanctuary for rescued animals and an education centre. The NGO now works across the country in rescues, advocacy and conservation education. Based in Tanzania, PAMS Foundation works in conservation to benefit both wildlife and the community. Its initiatives include training dogs to detect ivory being smuggled at borders, and supporting the Tanzanian government to undertake anti-poaching efforts. The elephants of northern Kenya’s Samburu National Reserve are some of the best studied in the world, thanks to the work of Save the Elephants. The charity’s main research centre is located in Samburu, from where it once pioneered the GPS tracking of elephant populations, and continues to try to understand ecosystems from an elephant’s perspective. Donations go towards various research and protection projects, from anti-poaching aerial surveillance to better understanding the herds’ migratory movements. Poaching is the immediate threat. But there is another, perhaps even more serious threat to Africa’s elephants: the loss of their habitat as economies grow and land competition surges. Space for Giants is pioneering efforts in Kenya, Gabon, and Uganda to lessen human-elephant conflict with specially-designed electrified fences, and spends a lot of time working with local communities explaining why fences help. This Japanese-Kenyan NGO is best known for its “No Ivory Generation” campaign, aimed at changing Japanese consumers’ attitudes to ivory. Tusk has invested about £30m in 60 conservation projects across Africa since its founding in 1990. Education and sustainable development are at the heart of its approach to conservation, working with local schools and rural communities to promote happy cohabitation between at-risk wildlife and the ever-expanding human population. The group behind the Ninety-Six Elephants campaign (see the campaign, lobby and educate section above) has a presence in 15 of the 37 African elephant range sites, from the savannahs of east Africa to the Gulf of Guinea. Donations help WCS’ efforts to stop the degradation of elephant habitats and prevent wildlife crime by providing rangers with essential technological and intelligence-gathering resources. A US Fish and Wildlife Service initiative financed by a mixture of government contributions and public donations, the fund awards grants to a variety of conservation and animal welfare projects. Recent beneficiaries include a scheme to mitigate human-elephant conflict in Nepal; counter-poaching operations in Thailand; and veterinary training to improve the care of captive elephants in Indonesia. As an all-volunteer organisation, the AES uses 100% of donations to fund numerous and diverse programmes everywhere from India to Vietnam. These range from English as a Second Language classes so that mahouts can develop their careers, to meeting the veterinary and housing needs of retired working elephants. ElefantAsia promotes alternative, cruelty-free careers for the elephants and mahouts that have traditionally served the logging industry in Laos and other parts of south-east Asia. The Laos-based non-profit also providing veterinary care in the form of mobile clinics and an elephant hospital in Sayaboury province. By making a one-off donation or sponsoring an elephant – generally a pregnant female, a mother with a baby, or an elderly or injured animal – donors can support the ECC’s efforts to rescue elephants from the Lao logging industry and re-home them in 106 hectares of protected forest. Rather than impose western ideas of how to run conservation projects, Elephant Family empowers local experts to develop their own solutions to protect Asian elephants in India, Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia and Malaysia. Soraida Salwala founded Friends of the Asian Elephant’s first elephant hospital in Thailand in 1993. Since then, more than 4,000 elephants have received medical treatment in her facility. In their spare time, a group of young people based in Gudalur work in nature conservation in the Nilgiri region of south India. Part of their work involves research into how people and elephants can coexist peacefully. The next generation of conservationists could be the key to ensuring elephants’ long-term survival. Through its educational programmes, Think Elephants International is keeping the subject alive in classrooms both at home in the US and in Thailand, with ambitions to spread the word far beyond. Formed almost 20 years ago in response to the threats to wildlife in India. With 150 employees, the group is dedicated to nature conservation through a wide range of projects. For example, it has supported anti-poaching training for more than 15,000 people working with wildlife. You can make a real difference to conservation efforts by becoming a citizen scientist. You don’t need a PhD to help track elephant populations. Run by the University of Cape Town, the MammalMAP project asks travellers and citizen scientists to share their photos of African wildlife, along with information about the date and location that the photograph was taken. In so doing, you will be helping to build a valuable picture of the mammal population and how it is changing. This Android app, created by ElephantVoices, allows users to upload sightings and observations of Mara elephants to help the conservation charity with its research and campaign work. A must-download for locals and visitors to Maasai Mara. A fun, simple and interactive way to conduct valuable scientific research from anywhere in the world. Snapshot Serengeti asks citizen scientists to help classify the animals caught on some of the hundreds of camera traps dotted throughout the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. You will be shown a photo and provided with a user-friendly and searchable list of native animals. Get clicking to help researchers better understand the park’s animal populations. You don’t have to travel all the way to Mozambique to be part of the Gorongosa National Park’s conservation team. Simply review webcam and camera trap footage to help identify the movements of the park’s animal populations. Whether you would rather bake cakes or trek across Kenya, your hard work can raise money (and awareness) for elephant conservation. Just make sure you obey local regulations. Described by National Geographic as one of the “most authentic, most innovative … and most sustainable tours” out there, this annual nine-day expedition involves trekking across the Kenyan countryside, encountering wildlife and the people responsible for its conservation along the way. Participants are asked to raise upwards of $1,000 (£800), which goes towards preventing the slaughter of the region’s elephants. Simply select an elephant-focused charity or conservation project from the website’s vast database, and within a couple of minutes you can set up your own fundraising page. Crowdrise promises that at least 97% of the proceeds will go to your chosen cause. Alternatively (or additionally), you can sponsor and support others in their fundraising efforts. Functioning in much the same way as its crowd-funding cousin Crowdrise, JustGiving provides users with a simple way to share news of their fundraising campaigns with friends and family and to collect sponsorship. Whether you want to run the London Marathon, climb Mount Kilimanjaro or hold a bake sale in the name of elephant conservation, Tusk’s team can support your fundraising endeavours, be that by helping you get a place at an event, or by providing you with useful tips and ideas. An anti-poaching initiative, Veterans 4 Wildlife sends skilled veterans – and volunteers – to support rangers across Africa. Often poverty is the cause of poaching, so this organisation does a lot of community-based work, such as building schools and creating jobs. Provides all the tools and tips you need to create a successful fundraising campaign. Download flyers, posters and pictures direct from the website, or draw inspiration from other fundraising efforts. It’s easy to become so fascinated by elephants that you overlook ways in which you are harming them. Here are some of the things you should not do if you want to prevent exploitation and abuse.
News Article | January 12, 2016
"We're seeing the price of ivory start to tank," said John Scanlon, head of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). "You're seeing the bottom fall out of the market," he told AFP on the sidelines of a meeting in Geneva this week focused on illegal wildlife trade. The international trade in ivory has been banned in most of the world since 1989 following a drop in the population of African elephants from millions in the mid-20th century to just 600,000 by the end of the 1980s. But a vast illegal market still sees some 30,0000 elephants slaughtered in Africa each year. Organised crime syndicates and rebel militia looking for ways to fund insurgencies in Africa have become increasingly involved in the trade, eager to reap the benefits as demand in Asia for ivory to use in decorations and traditional medicines drives a multi-billion-dollar market. But in a report published late last year, Kenya-based conservation group Save the Elephants said the price of ivory in China was cut in half over an 18-month period. The organisation said in December that the price of illegal raw ivory in China had fallen to $1,100 (1,000 euros) per kilo, down from a record high in mid-2014 of $2,100 (1,900 euros) per kilo. China has this year taken steps to reduce both the legal and illegal ivory trades—although a total ban has not been put in place—and awareness of the impact of the trade on Africa's elephants is growing among Chinese consumers. While the gangs behind most of the illegal trade can still make a profit, Scanlon said the slumping prices were sending a clear message. He said that even more than ivory-coveting end consumers, scrupulous investors speculating in illegal ivory prices were driving the demand, stressing that they were unlikely to keep investing as prices plunge and the risks soar. Countries across the world have increasingly been cracking down on the illegal trade, dishing out harsher sentences to poachers, middlemen and buyers alike and dramatically increasing efforts to track ivory. Trading in illegal ivory "is shifting from low risk, high profit to high risk, low profit," Scanlon said, voicing hope that lower prices could help bring the devastating trade to an end. The problem however remains far from solved. Today, only 450,000 to 500,000 elephants remain in Africa, with the hardest-hit populations in the centre and the west of the continent seeing annual killings that exceed the natural birthrates. "We are faced with terrifying levels of poaching and illegal trade," Niger's representative Mariama Ali Omar told the CITES conference. She was among a range of country representatives calling on countries to destroy their ivory stockpiles and urging those that permit the trade of ivory from domestic elephants to "stop it." "That would help us to bring down demand... (and) bring an end to having domestic trade serve to launder illegal ivory trade," she said. The Geneva meeting will provide a range of recommendations to be considered at the triennial World Wildlife Conference in opening in South Africa in September. Explore further: Treat illegal wildlife trade as serious crime: CITES
News Article | January 14, 2016
Hong Kong's leader, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, said in Hong Kong on Wednesday that the semiautonomous Chinese city will take steps to implement a total ban on the sale of ivory because of concern about poaching that has sharply reduced elephant populations in many parts of Africa. Hong Kong will take legislative measures as soon as possible to ban the import and export of elephant hunting trophies and explore other legislation as part of its effort to phase out the local ivory trade, Leung said. Moves to ban the trade by the government in Hong Kong, a major conduit for ivory bound for mainland China, would dovetail with similar pledges by Beijing. Hong Kong's Basic Law, a kind of mini-constitution, grants the city a high degree of control over its own affairs. In a statement, Peter Knights, executive director of San Francisco-based WildAid, congratulated Hong Kong for what he called "this historic step." The World Wide Fund for Nature also welcomed the pledge, urging the government to quickly develop a clear timetable for implementation. China is the world's largest market for illegal ivory, which has been thriving under the cover of legal ivory sales. In September, U.S. President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping of China agreed to implement nearly complete bans on the ivory trade. In December, Save the Elephants, a conservation group, announced new research showing the price of illegal raw ivory in China had dropped by almost half in the previous 18 months. It attributed the drop to Chinese moves to end the trade, growing awareness in China about the link between buying ivory and the slaughter of elephants, and the Chinese economic slowdown. The research authors, Esmond Bradley Martin and Lucy Vigne, also produced a report last year that said more than 90 percent of ivory objects in Hong Kong, including rings, pendants and small figurines, are bought by mainland Chinese.
News Article | February 8, 2017
After years of being on the brink of extinction, the elephant population in Zakouma National Park in Chad, Central Africa is finally thriving. Zakouma is blessed with an exceptional landscape and ecosystem. It was declared a national park by the Chadian government in 1963. Situated north of the Sahara Desert and above the rich tropical rainforest regions of the oil-rich nation, Zakouma provides an ideal shelter for all kinds of wildlife. But the African elephants of Zakouma stand no chance against ruthless poachers who slaughter them for their tusks. The relentless poaching in the area, with hunters butchering the poor animals by the thousands, has led the potentially traumatized elephants to stop reproducing as well. Through the years, the elephant population suffered a massive decline of up to 90 percent, from 4,000 elephants in 2002 to a mere 450 in 2010. Experts have projected that Zakouma's elephant population would cease to exist in a couple of years. Concerned about the dire situation of the elephants in Zakouma, the government sought the help of African Parks (AP), a non-profit conservation organization based in South Africa. AP installed new park directors: husband and wife Rian and Lorna Labuschagne, who have more than three decades of experience working in African reserves, such as those in Malawi and Kenya. The Labuschagnes implemented stringent anti-poaching strategies, which included equipping rangers and community headmen with a 24-hour radio communication system and providing them with advanced combat training against Sudanese raiders, which local rumor has it are undefeated because of supernatural powers. "Previously the park would close down for four months every year, and when it opened again, they would find 700 to 800 elephants missing. We operate in the park for 12 months of the year. We came in with a completely different strategy and put in place things like communication, proper training and satellite collars for the elephants. Immediately we began to track them," Rian explained. Since last year, there has not been a known case of poaching inside the 19,000-square-mile African reserve. Zakouma National Park is now home to more than 500 elephants and counting. The elephants have also started to breed again, counting 70 newborns in 2016. "Zakouma's recovery is extraordinary. The elephant population was definitely on the way out, and African Parks has saved it," Chris Thouless of Save the Elephants, a Kenya-based nonprofit organization, told the National Geographic. A significant milestone for elephant conservation, China announced that it will end ivory trade by 2017. China holds the top spot for the world's biggest consumer market for wildlife products, including elephant ivory. "I applaud China's leadership to put a clear end to its domestic ivory trade by the end of 2017. I am hopeful that the comprehensive data provided by the Great Elephant Census (GEC), along with actions taken during the recent IUCN and CITES convenings, contributed to China's decision to accelerate the deadline for the ivory ban," GEC founder Paul G. Allen said in an official statement. Back in September 2016, the Great Elephant Census released the results of a massive two-year project. After tracking savanna elephants in 18 African countries, the GEC report revealed a disturbing 30 percent decline since 2007. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
News Article | August 31, 2016
How can ivory possibly be more important than saving an iconic species? The Great Elephant Census (GEC) is a three-year, $7 million project created to survey African elephants (Loxodonta africana). Managed by Elephants Without Borders, the immense project's report shows that elephant numbers are plummeting. The current rate of population decline is 8 percent per year, mostly thanks to poaching. Currently the savannah elephant population is estimated to be 352,271 within the 18 countries surveyed. Africa may have been home to over 20 million elephants before European colonization and 1 million as recently as the 1970s, notes the report. Many elephant carcasses were discovered in protected areas, indicating that elephants are not doing particularly well within and outside of parks. The ivory trade and consequent poaching are posing such a serious threat that experts say we are at risk of losing elephants entirely from certain parts of Africa. The census is the first-ever of its kind and is an impressive effort: Overall, 90 scientists, six non-governmental organization partners, and two advisory partners, managed by a team at Paul Allen's Vulcan Inc. collaborated in the work. These included the organizations Elephants Without Borders, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Nature Conservancy, Frankfurt Zoological Society, African Parks Network and the advisory groups Save the Elephants and the International Union for Conservation of Nature's African Elephant Specialist Group. The effort was conducted which partnered with in country park biologists, rangers, and game wardens. In figuring out the number and distribution of the continent’s remaining savanna elephants, we now have a baseline on a scale for future surveys and trend analyses that wildlife ecologists will be able to use in the effort to ensure African elephants' survival. Dr Michael Chase, the Principle Investigator on the project, says, "the results of the GEC show the necessity of action to end the African elephants' downward trajectory by preventing poaching and protecting habitat." As the report concludes, "The future of African savannah elephants ultimately depends on the resolve of governments, conservation organizations, and people to apply the GEC’s findings by fighting poaching, conserving elephant habitats, and mitigating human-elephant conflict." For more data and to see how the research was conducted, you can read the report in the journal PeerJ.
News Article | January 13, 2016
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying told lawmakers in his annual policy address that officials were determined to crack down on the trade in Hong Kong. The southern Chinese city is a major hub of ivory sales and has been criticised by environmentalists for fuelling the illegal trade that leads to rampant poaching across Africa. "The government is very concerned about the illegal poaching of elephants in Africa. It will kick start legislative procedures as soon as possible to ban the import and export of elephant hunting trophies," Leung said at the Legislative Council on Wednesday. He added ministers will "actively explore other appropriate measures" to phase out the local ivory trade. But he did not specify when the ban would be put in place. Hong Kong has one of the busiest container terminals and airports in the world and often seizes ivory traded without authorisation. Ivory seizures reached a record 8,041 kilogrammes in 2013. The announcement was warmly welcomed by animal welfare activists—but they urged new laws to be implemented as soon as possible. Alex Hofford from conservation group WildAid told AFP: "We are delighted that the Hong Kong government has finally announced that they will start to phase out the local ivory trade." He added: "We're now urging the chief executive to set a timeline and follow through with concrete action as soon as possible." Elephant tusks are used in traditional medicine and to make ornaments with demand high in Asia and the Middle East. Ivory is also popular with Chinese collectors who see it as a valuable investment. A report by advocacy group Save the Elephants published in July said Hong Kong's ivory market is helping push elephants towards extinction. "History has shown that legal ivory sales only serve to provide a cover for illegal trade, which fuels the rampant poaching we see across Africa. Hong Kong has always been the epicentre of that trade," Peter Knights of WildAid said in a statement, describing the announcement as a "historic step". Knights added the end of the trade "may be in sight" with prices falling in China, a key market. According to official figures, 242 tonnes of ivory were sold in Hong Kong between 1990 and 2008, an average of around 13 tonnes a year. Since 2010, recorded sales have slowed to just a tonne a year. China accounts for 70 percent of world demand for ivory, according to wildlife NGOs. They say China's zeal for ivory is responsible for the death of 30,000 African elephants each year. There are now an estimated 470,000 African elephants living in the wild, compared to 550,000 in 2006, said the NGO Elephants Without Borders. The international trade in elephant ivory, with rare exceptions, has been outlawed since 1989 after populations of the African giants dropped from millions in the mid-20th century to some 600,000 by the end of the 1980s.
News Article | March 9, 2016
Morgan, a male bull in his 30s, was fitted with a tracking collar in December in Kenya's coastal Tana River Delta but in mid-February began an unexpected march northwards to Somalia, reaching the border nearly three weeks later (AFP Photo/) More Nairobi (AFP) - An elephant marched hundreds of kilometres and briefly crossed into Somalia this month marking the first time the animal has been seen in the country in 20 years, conservationists said Wednesday. Morgan, a male bull in his 30s, was fitted with a tracking collar in December in Kenya's coastal Tana River Delta, but in mid-February began an unexpected march northwards to Somalia, reaching the border nearly three weeks later. His march has excited conservationists who say it shows the elephant remembered ancient routes after decades of absence due to war. "He obviously had something in his mind about where he's going," said Iain Douglas-Hamilton of Save the Elephants, a conservation organisation that has put tracking collars on hundreds of African elephants. Morgan's journey suggests that the Kenya-Somalia border area is becoming less dangerous and that if security were to return to southern Somalia so might the exiled elephants. From Tana River, Morgan trudged 20 kilometres (12 miles) on the first night and then hid in thick forest the following day, before continuing his march under cover of darkness. He maintained this pattern for the next 18 days. "He's adopted this extreme form of survival strategy to traverse one of the most dangerous places for elephants in their African range," said Douglas-Hamilton. African elephants are threatened everywhere by criminal poaching gangs and armed groups, who kill them for their tusks, the ivory fetching around $1,100 (1,000 euros) per kilogramme (2.2 pounds) in China. At least 20,000 elephants were killed last year, according to figures released this month by the Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), an international organisation. In some parts of Africa elephants are being killed quicker than they reproduce, but Kenya has seen recent successes with the number of elephants poached in 2015 falling to 93 from 164 the previous year. In the early 1970s it is estimated there were as many as 20,000 elephants in Kenya's coastal area, but that number has fallen to 300 at most today. Some credit a Kenyan security operation in the area with suppressing poaching. "We're seeing more elephants now," said Charles Omondi, a commander in the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) which is patrolling the Lamu area alongside Kenyan soldiers and police deployed to defend against regular deadly attacks by Islamic militants. There have been no confirmed sightings of elephants in Somalia in two decades, since soon after the start of a civil war that has continued in different forms ever since. Despite the time that has elapsed, Morgan appeared to have remember the old migration routes. "A mature bull like Morgan is not wandering aimlessly. He's likely following a route that he learnt earlier in his life, one that has been used by elephants for generations," said Ian Craig, conservation director at the Northern Rangelands Trust, a Kenya-based conservation group that establishes reserves across the country, including in the area where Morgan lives. In the end, after walking 220 kilometres (137 miles) Morgan spent just less than 24-hours actually in Somalia -- and only went three kilometres over the border -- before turning back, presumably after failing to find any willing females with whom to mate. But the fact of his journey is what excites the conservationists. "Out of all the tracking we've done in Africa, these movements –- and these circumstances –- are exceptional," said Douglas-Hamilton. "The wandering of this one bull across the entire expanse of Lamu district, from the Tana river to the Somali border, no-one has seen anything like this before."
News Article | August 31, 2016
Because forest elephants are one the slowest reproducing mammals in the world, it will take almost a century for them to recover from the intense poaching they have suffered since 2002. Credit: Andrea Turkalo/WCS Because forest elephants are one the slowest reproducing mammals in the world, it will take almost a century for them to recover from the intense poaching they have suffered since 2002. Not only does it take more than two decades for female forest elephants to begin reproducing, but they also give birth only once every five to six years. The findings are from a first-ever study of forest elephant demography published Aug. 31 in the Journal of Applied Ecology. There are two species of elephants in Africa. Savannah elephants make up the majority across the continent, with smaller numbers of the more diminutive forest elephants restricted to tropical forests. Forest elephants have experienced serious poaching, driving an estimated population decline of 65 percent between 2002 and 2013 according to a study led by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). Their reported low birth rates mean that it will take forest elephants at least 90 years to recover from these losses, according to researchers from the WCS, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Elephant Listening Project, Colorado State University, and Save the Elephants. The team used decades of intensive monitoring data that recorded births and deaths of the elephants using the Dzanga Bai in Central African Republic, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sangha Trinational area. (Dzanga Bai translates roughly as "village of elephants.") "This work provides another critical piece of understanding regarding the dire conservation status of forest elephants," said the study's lead author Andrea Turkalo, WCS Associate Conservation Scientist, who over several decades collected the detailed data on the Dzanga elephants despite tough logistical challenges and political instability. Using data Turkalo collected from 1990 to 2013 during nearly daily visits to a mineral rich forest clearing, or bai, that attracts elephants and other wildlife, the authors were able to uncover the age at which the forest elephants had their first calves, the length of time between calves, and other behaviors. The team found that forest elephants begin breeding later and have much longer calving intervals than other elephants, which means the population takes much longer to increase. "Female forest elephants in the Dzanga population typically breed for the first time after 23 years of age, a markedly late age of maturity relative to other mammals," Turkalo said. "In contrast, Savannah elephants typically begin breeding at age 12. In addition, breeding female forest elephants only produced a calf once every five or six years, relative to the three- to four-year interval found for Savannah elephants." The authors believe that the low birth rate is due to the challenges of living in a tropical forest, where new plant growth is mostly limited to the canopy. Said Peter Wrege, a Behavioral Ecologist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Elephant Listening Project: "While we think of tropical forests as incredibly productive areas, most production occurs in the high canopy inaccessible to ground-dwelling species. In addition, vegetation in tropical systems are laden with compounds to defend their leaves from herbivores, including elephants. This means accessing resources is challenging for terrestrial fauna." George Wittemyer, chair of the Scientific Board of Save the Elephants and a professor in Wildlife Conservation at Colorado State University, said the findings are essential to assessing the status of forest elephants and projecting population decline in the face of illegal killing. "Legislation regarding ivory trade must consider the collateral effects on forest elephants and the difficulties of protecting them," Wittemyer said. "Trade in ivory in one nation can influence the pressures on elephants in other nations." The paper's findings show that the forest elephant is particularly susceptible to poaching - vital information in the push to close domestic ivory markets, which will be debated at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, which runs from Sept. 1-10 in Hawaii, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which meets in Johannesburg in late September. The authors also highlight the importance of the results for interpreting carcass data collected through the Monitoring of Illegal Killing of Elephants program, which has shown high levels of poaching across central Africa. "Only by understanding the basic biology of forest elephants and other species, can we properly determine the level of threats they face from human activities," said Wittemyer. Forest elephants have critical ecological roles in these forests, and many tree species rely on the elephants to disperse their seeds. Continued decline in forest elephant numbers and range is likely to drive severe changes to these ecosystems, making their conservation status a significant global issue. Failing to protect forest elephants would also damage Central African forests, which are important for absorbing climate change gases. Explore further: At least 26 elephants massacred by C.African poachers
News Article | November 7, 2016
Researchers analyzing African elephant tusks seized by global law enforcement have confirmed what many suspect: the illegal ivory trade, now running in high gear, is being fueled almost exclusively by recently killed animals. In the first study of its kind, researchers showed that almost all tusks studied came from animals killed less than three years before the tusks were seized--many probably much more recently. The study bolsters evidence of widespread poaching, and undercuts the idea that many tusks are illegally recycled from older stockpiles built up by corrupt governments. "It shows that ivory is moving through the system fast. Some of the elephants were killed just before their tusks were thrown in the shipping container," said study coauthor Kevin Uno, a geochemist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. "That has huge implications for our estimates of the number of elephants being taken." Tucked into the overall findings is an ominous trend: the lag time between killing and seizure, while still relatively short, has gone up. The trend started in 2011. Uno says that may indicate that smugglers are taking longer to acquire enough tusks for shipment, because there are fewer and fewer elephants left to kill. The study appears in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Conservationists say poaching has soared in the last five to 10 years. The research provides support for a recent Africa-wide census saying that poachers killed off nearly 30 percent of Africa's savannah elephants from 2007 to 2014, about 144,000 animals. This leaves an estimated 350,000 in 18 sub-Saharan countries. Another recent study estimates that from 2002 to 2013, poachers killed nearly two-thirds of the continent's more reclusive forest-dwelling elephants. "This is another method of seeing what's happening, independent of the elephant count. It corroborates the count," said lead author Thure Cerling of the University of Utah. The researchers analyzed the ages of 231 tusks from large seizures made in nine nations from 2002 to 2014--the first such large-scale age study. To tell when the elephants died, they measured small amounts of the radioactive isotope carbon-14 left over from open-air nuclear-bomb tests in the 1950s and 1960s. The isotope ended up in plants that the animals ingested and used to build new ivory; the amount found in the most recently formed tissues provided a time stamp marking time of death. Uno first showed in a 2013 study that the method could be used to date elephant tusks. The most telling part is a pulp cavity at the base, where new ivory grows daily, pushing the tusk outward. The tusks used in the new study came from seizures in Kenya, Thailand, Hong Kong, Malawi, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Togo. The researchers showed that more than 90 percent of the specimens had come from elephants killed less than three years before the ivory was confiscated--many probably within only several months. Only four specimens had a lag time of more than five years, including three from elephants that had been killed six years before the tusks were seized, and just one from an elephant killed about 19 years before. Before 2011, the time between the elephants' deaths and seizure of their tusks hovered at 8 to 10 months. (These included one 2010 Kenya shipment in which the smugglers camouflaged the tusks with piled-up avocado skins.) But starting in 2011, the lag time ascended on a steep curve to two or three years, suggesting that smugglers were having an increasingly hard time finding enough product for large-scale shipment. The tusks have also been getting progressively smaller; most of the really big elephants have already been killed, said Uno. Black-market prices in China and elsewhere recently have been running around $1,000 a pound. Using data from a previous DNA study by coauthor Samuel Wasser, the team also was able to tell where the elephants had lived. Through this, they discovered that tusks from East Africa were moving faster than those from other regions. This, said Uno, could be because East African elephants are exposed in open savannahs, where they can be shot down with abandon and the ivory shipped out quickly. In other regions, they dwell in dense forests, where they are harder to harvest en masse. A longstanding treaty makes international trade in ivory from elephants killed after 1989 illegal, and many countries have stricter rules regarding domestic markets. In Canada, the prohibition starts in 1975; in the United States, the trade ban was recently made near-total. This has not halted the trade; in September, the owners of a New York City antiques store were arrested after investigators found an inventory of $4.5 million worth of carved ivory and whole tusks. Ivory seizures have soared; more than 40 tons have been seized since 2010. But conservationists and scientists have debated whether some of the seized ivory is actually looted by corrupt officials from government stockpiles made up in large part of previously seized ivory. "It's long been widely assumed that a lot of it was leaking from stockpiles," said Elizabeth Bennett, vice president for species conservation at the Wildlife Conservation Society. "This shows that's not true, and that's very encouraging." The finding has "huge implications" for policy and enforcement, she said. "It says that if we can stop the poaching, we can dry up the ivory pouring out of Africa," she said. Many governments have already been destroying seized tusks to keep them off the market. In recent years, at least 21 nations have crushed or burned large ivory stockpiles; earlier this year, Kenya cremated 105 tons. China and many other nations still have legal domestic ivory markets for supposedly old ivory, but Bennett says the study suggests much of the merchandise is new ivory masquerading as old. This may encourage countries to enact domestic bans as well. China and the European Union recently announced intentions to put such bans in place. Cerling said that he hopes new ways of analyzing wildlife products can be used to both understand the sources of animal parts and strengthen enforcement. Similar methods could be used, for example, to pin down the provenance of other materials including walrus and rhinoceros ivory, pangolin scales, and illegally cut timber. A handful of criminal cases using Uno's method have been prosecuted in Canada and elsewhere, but so far it has not come into wide use. The other authors of the study are Janet Barnette and Lesley Chesson of IsoForensics; Iain Douglas-Hamilton Save the Elephants; Kathleen Gobush of Vulcan Inc.; Samuel Wasser of the University of Washington; and Xiaomei Xu of the University of California, Irvine. The paper, "Radiocarbon dating of seized ivory confirms rapid decline in African elephant populations and provides insight into illegal trade," is available from the authors or from the PNAS news office: PNASnews@nas.edu 202-334-1310. Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory is Columbia University's home for Earth science research. Its scientists develop fundamental knowledge about the origin, evolution and future of the natural world, from the planet's deepest interior to the outer reaches of its atmosphere, on every continent and in every ocean, providing a rational basis for the difficult choices facing humanity. http://www. | @LamontEarth The Earth Institute, Columbia University mobilizes the sciences, education and public policy to achieve a sustainable earth. http://www. .
News Article | August 31, 2016
Investigators led by EWB director Mike Chase say the Pan-African survey shows that for savannah elephant populations in 15 GEC countries for which repeat counts were available, populations declined by 30 percent, or 144,000 animals, between 2007 and 2014. Billionaire philanthropist Paul G. Allen and his sister Jody Allen are the primary funders of the survey. Chase and colleagues presented results at the World Conservation Congress in Honolulu on Sept. 2, and findings were published on Sept. 1, in the peer-reviewed open access journal PeerJ. Wildlife ecologist Curt Griffin at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, with postdoctoral researcher Scott Schlossberg, are members of a research team that compiled the data, conducted statistical analyses and applied new data analysis techniques to help Chase and EWB estimate the abundance and geographic distribution of savannah elephants across Africa using the most accurate, up-to-date statistical methods to analyze the survey data. Results provide a baseline that governments and wildlife conservation organizations can use to coordinate conservation efforts. Chase was Griffin's graduate student at UMass Amherst when Chase founded the Botswana-based EWB in 2007. The GEC is the first continent-wide aerial survey of African elephants. Griffin, who visits Africa every year to conduct research with Chase and EWB, says, "We at UMass Amherst are very proud to be a key partner in this great elephant count. We continue to advocate and work hard for the conservation of elephants in the face of the slaughter they are caught in." Until now, Griffin says, there has not been a coordinated continent-wide survey of elephants, and "we really didn't know how accurate the estimates were, coming in from the various countries." For this work, EWB worked with dozens of elephant researchers, government wildlife agencies and conservation groups to conduct aerial surveys from small planes and helicopters to count elephant herds across African savannahs. These surveys covered 463,000 km, equal to flying to the moon and a quarter of the way home. Overall, 90 scientists, six non-governmental organization partners and two advisory partners collaborated in the GEC. EWB partnered with park biologists and rangers, game wardens and organizations including the International Union for Conservation of Nature's African Elephant Specialist Group, Wildlife Conservation Society, Save the Elephants, The Nature Conservancy, Frankfurt Zoological Society and African Parks Network. "An important question we wanted to answer in our research," Griffin adds, "is how many elephants are being missed by observers on aerial surveys. To answer that we did a double observer study to understand the sources of error, so we can develop more accurate estimates of elephant population numbers." Further, Schlossberg conducted unique statistical trend analyses that yielded the first quantitative model of elephant population trends across Africa. "Although these statistical tools were out there," Griffin notes, "they had never been applied before to elephant populations. Results from the GEC now provide us benchmarks to gauge if elephant conservation efforts are successful and to identify areas where more work is needed to conserve habitat and stop poaching." Overall, GEC researchers estimate the savannah elephant population is 352,271 in the 18 countries surveyed to date, representing at least 93 percent of savannah elephants in these countries. They say the rate of decline increased from 2007 to 2014. In their surveys, they sighted 84 percent of the elephants in legally protected areas compared to 16 percent in unprotected areas. However, large numbers of carcasses were counted in many protected areas, indicating that elephants are struggling both within and outside of parks. Experts say that poaching and the ivory trade pose serious threats, and if not stopped, savannah elephants could disappear from many parts of Africa. The GEC was launched in late 2013 and the first flights were in February 2014 over the Tsavo National Park in Kenya. The census has completed 18 country surveys with two countries still to be completed, organizers say. South Sudan and the Central African Republic are to be flown by the end of 2016, depending on safety conditions. Explore further: Botswana warns over elephant deaths ahead of anti-poaching summit