Environment Counts | Illegal killing for ivory drives global decline in African elephants :
A recent report published by the National Academy of Sciences estimates that Illegal killing of elephants in Africa has reached the point where the species has declined from 2010 to 2013. The report estimates based on the empirical method that in the years 2010, 2011 and 2012 between approximately 21,000 and 47,000 elephants were killed annually across the continent.
The study adopted two different approaches combining an empirical data and modelling and considers three regions of Africa ( Central, East and Southern). Each of the regions â€œdemonstrated different trends that were captured by both approaches. Illegal killing was most pervasive in the populations of Central Africa where results supported probable annual declines each year since at least 2007, with the empirical approach estimating a 63.7% decline between 2002 and 2012.â€
The report states that â€œour results suggest savanna populations in East and Southern Africa were relatively stable or growing between 2002 and 2009, after which they started declining. Results for Southern Africa varied between approaches, with empirical results suggesting decline during all 3 years, and modeled results suggesting stability in 2010 and decline in 2011â€“2012.â€
The report estimates (Tables 1 and S3) total illegal killing of elephants in Africa in 2011 was between 36,000 and 47,000. This included approximately 21,000 in Central Africa, 8,000 in the Central and 18,000 in Southern Africa.
The report notes that â€œpreliminary data from 2013 suggests regional and continental offtake levels were slightly lower to those reported for 2012, but still unsustainable.â€
â€œAs a result of this illegal killing, the population currently suffers from few prime-aged males, strongly skewed sex ratios, and social disruption in the form of some collapsed families and increased numbers of orphans (immature elephants without a parent).â€
The report states â€œillegal harvest for commercial trade in ivory has recently surged, coinciding with increases in illegal ivory seizures and black market ivory prices.â€
Illegal killing for ivory drives global decline in African elephants
Wittemyer et al, August 2014, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA