Conservationists say that forest agricultural clearing is mainly to blame for the sharp decrease in the number of elephants in the West African country, with findings showing that of the 25 protected areas surveyed, the presence of elephants was only confirmed in four, and even there it was low.
Côte d’Ivoire, which translates to Ivory Coast, got its name due to the fact that it hosted one of the largest elephant populations in West Africa in precolonial and colonial times. However populations have plummeted over the last three decades and now elephants are vulnerable to extinction.
By the early 1990s, the total number of savannah and forest elephants in the entire country was estimated to be less than 360.
As previous studies are so old, local researchers presented updated information on the distribution and conservation of forest elephants in Côte d’Ivoire for the new study, analysing dung counts, records of human-elephant conflicts, media reports and interview survey data obtained from 2011 to 2018.
Study leader Sery Gonedelé Bi, of Université Félix Houphouët-Boigny in Côte d’Ivoire, said: “The large majority of the protected area of Côte d’Ivoire has lost its entire elephant populations as a consequence of the lack of conservation measures.
“Out of the 25 protected areas surveyed, forest elephants of Côte d’Ivoire are now confined into small populations in four protected areas.”
Dr Bi added: “Protected areas with higher levels of protection had a higher probability of hosting an elephant population.
“The presence of elephants inside protected areas was affected by human population size, habitat degradation, and the proportion of forest converted to cocoa plantation.”
The researcher said that “aggressive conservation actions” – including law enforcement and ranger patrols – are needed to protect the remaining forest elephants.
The study is published in the journal PLOS One.