Share This Page

Will Africa’s Forest Elephant Share the Fate of Its Savannah Elephant—Extinction by Poaching?

Scientists have just released new research that documents a 62 percent decline in the forest elephant population of Central and West Africa. The research adds to the evidence that the end may be near for the African elephant in the wild. (See our blog  Will African Elephants be Extinct in Ten Years?) Perhaps this study will weigh heavily on the discussion of a ban on ivory trade among countries of the international agreement to protect animal and plant species in Bangkok to this week.

In the study published Monday in the journal Plos One, we learn that the forest elephant of Central and West Africa–one of two species of African elephant–is headed toward extinction.  The savannah elephant, found primarily on the savannah’s of East and Southern Africa, is the better-known of the two species. During the last decade these gentle giants of the forests have been sacrificed to human expansion, increased hunting, and a lack of policing by governments. The demand for ivory in Asia, mentioned in Aid for Africa’s blog last week, is intensifying this decline.

Forest elephants are critical to a healthy forest ecological balance.  They eat fruit and spread large quantities of seeds throughout their territories.  They also clear small areas of the forests, which allows other species to thrive. Because these elephants live in remote areas, counting them has been difficult.  This multi-year research included tracking elephant dung to learn their fate.  Dung deposits declined steadily during the study period.

The study calls for increasing forest elephant protection in parks and reserves and reducing human encroachment.  But ending the international demand for ivory is key.  Let’s hope that as the delegates to Bangkok debating a ban on ivory trade are paying attention.

What can you do to help save the African elephant? Help ensure that that the world is talking about this horrific genocide by: