The shocking figures come from Gabon’s Minkebe Park, where recent surveys of areas within the park revealed that two thirds of its elephants have vanished since 2004. The majority of these losses have probably taken place in the last five years.
Gabon contains over half of Africa’s forest elephants, with a population estimated at over 40,000.
The surveys were conducted by WCS, WWF, and Gabon’s National Parks Agency – Agence Nationale des parcs Nationaux (ANPN). The survey was funded by ANPN, the CITES MIKE (Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants) Program, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
“This sad news from Gabon confirms that without a global commitment, great elephant populations will soon become a thing of the past,” said WCS President and CEO Cristián Samper. “We believe that elephants can still be saved – but only if nations greatly increase their efforts to stop poaching while eliminating the illegal ivory trade through better enforcement and reduced demand.”
Until recently, Gabon’s elephant herds were believed to be less impacted by poaching than in other parts of Africa, where according to the Born Free Foundation, an estimated 31,800 individuals were lost to poaching last year. However, Gabon’s National Park Agency reported an uptick of poaching in recent years, including the 2011 slaughter of 27 elephants in a protected area just outside of the capitol.
In June 2011, a significant increase in human activity in the Minkebe National Park and its buffer zone was detected. A small camp of 300 artisanal gold miners had expanded to over 5,000 miners, poachers, and arms and drugs dealers. Park authorities estimated that 50-100 elephants were being killed daily as a result of increases in demand for ivory from the Far East and resulting price hike.
Since the survey results were announced, Gabon has stepped up its anti-poaching efforts seizing 20 tusks in the nation’s capitol of Libreville and arresting poachers who had illegally entered the country from neighboring Cameroon. Gabon’s National Park staff recently engaged in a firefight with armed poachers in Minkebe National Park after arresting two individuals carrying six tusks.
Gabon President Ali Bongo Ondimba announced that Gabon will pass new legislation to further dissuade commercial ivory poachers even more by increasing prison terms to a minimum of three years for ivory poachers and 15 years for poaching and ivory trafficking involving organized crime. Speaking in a cabinet meeting, the president urgently called for a strong, coordinated, and decisive response to this national emergency from all of the security and wildlife management services.
Lee White, head of the ANPN said: “Over the last three years we have deployed 400 additional parks staff, 120 soldiers and 30 gendarmes in our fight to stop illegal killing of elephants for the black market ivory trade. Despite our efforts we continue to lose elephants every day. If we do not turn the situation around quickly the future of the elephant in Africa is doomed. These new results illustrate starkly just how dramatic the situation has become. Our actions over the coming decade will determine whether these iconic species survive.”
Richard Ruggiero, Chief of the Branch of the Near East, South Asia and Africa, Division of International Conservation, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, said: “We are working closely with the Gabonese authorities, who are showing true leadership, but this is a global problem and will require a global solution.”
Mike Fay, the WCS explorer who played a key role in convincing the late Gabonese President Omar Bongo Ondimba to create a network of 13 national parks in 2002, said: “Conservation efforts in the Minkebe region have failed to react to the growing pressure of ivory poaching with tragic results. We need rethink how we do business and to act decisively if we are to save the elephant.”
The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth.
Stephen Sautner | Newswise
Blacklists Protect the Rainforest
24.09.2015 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
Small Alga – Great Effect
22.09.2015 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Marine Tropenökologie (ZMT)
An interdisciplinary team of researchers has built the first prototype of a miniature particle accelerator that uses terahertz radiation instead of radio...
At present, tiny magnetic whirls – so called skyrmions – are discussed as promising candidates for bits in future robust and compact data storage devices. At...
In cooperation with the Center for Nano-Optics of Georgia State University in Atlanta (USA), scientists of the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics of the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics and the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität have made simulations of the processes that happen when a layer of carbon atoms is irradiated with strong laser light.
Electrons hit by strong laser pulses change their location on ultrashort timescales, i.e. within a couple of attoseconds (1 as = 10 to the minus 18 sec). In...
At the exhibition BATTERY + STORAGE as part of WORLD OF ENERGY SOLUTIONS 2015 in Stuttgart, the Fraunhofer Institutes for Laser Technology ILT and for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS will be showing how laser technology can be used to manufacture batteries both cost- and energy-efficiently.
In the truest sense, it’s all about watts at the Dresden-based Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS and the Aachen-based Fraunhofer...
01.10.2015 | Event News
30.09.2015 | Event News
17.09.2015 | Event News
06.10.2015 | Information Technology
06.10.2015 | Physics and Astronomy
06.10.2015 | Life Sciences