Essay African Elephant

Published 17th April 2009
Modified 1st April 2014

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Wildlife, African Elephants

One of Africa’s most loved and respected animals, the African Elephant, is still being poached at an alarming rate that could see as much as 20% of the current population killed in the next 10 years, unless something can be done to halt the slaughter. 

The African Elephant can be divided into two sub-species, the African Bush Elephant and the African Forest Elephant, which are distinguished by size and ear shape – the Forest Elephant is significantly smaller and has rounded ears.  African Elephants can easily consume up to 225 kilograms of fruit, grass and leaves in a day, which is why they need a great deal of land to sustain them.  In many instances their habitat is shrinking due to agricultural encroachment, which puts them even more at risk and leads to Elephant/human conflict.

At a recent Elephant Summit held in Botswana, a report stated that approximately 22,000 of these highly intelligent and social creatures were illegally killed across Africa in 2012 alone, which was slightly fewer than the figures for 2011, which stand at 25,000.   

In one of the most shocking incidents to date, 300 Elephants were killed by cyanide in September 2013 in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, in one of the “worst single massacres in Southern Africa in more than 25 years”.  And this in a protected environment!

Several measures have been put in place to try and halt the blood-bath.  In 1989 CITES banned international trade in ivory to try and combat the massive scale of illegal trade, and immediately thereafter, there was a sharp drop in illegal killings (1990), especially in regions where the animals were protected.  This gave Elephant populations some breathing-space to recover.  However, in the countries where the management authorities are under-funded and thus ineffective, the massacre of the innocents continues.

How sad.  But there is a glimmer of hope! Botswana is one of the Southern African success stories, where government interaction has significantly impacted on the safety and security of the Elephants and where revenue from tourism is ensuring that the populations here continue to thrive.  Come and see them soon!  Take plenty of photos and reflect on the sad fact that your great-grandchildren may only be able to see these wonderful creatures in a Zoo unless we can work together to stop Elephant poaching in Africa.


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To reduce the illegal killing of elephants through improved protection and management, WWF equips and trains law enforcement teams so they can conduct regular and effective antipoaching patrols. We help establish new protected areas within elephant ranges and improve management effectiveness within existing protected areas.

WWF helps governments produce and adopt elephant conservation strategies, allowing them to survey, and manage elephant populations and to implement the CITES system for Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE). We facilitate training in elephant conservation and management techniques and help update and enforce legislation to protect elephants. WWF has helped train park guards, villagers and communities in elephant conservation and management. In Quirimbas National Park, Mozambique, WWF worked with the local government and community to establish a park management system that would protect wildlife and livelihoods. WWF also develops and supports community-based wildlife management plans that contribute to elephant conservation while providing benefits to local people.

To increase public support for elephant conservation by reducing conflict, WWF trains wildlife managers and local communities to use modern methods and tools to mitigate human-elephant conflict. In places like the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania, WWF monitors interactions between humans and elephants and works with local communities to develop sustainable practices of mitigating conflict with elephants.

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