The results of a two-year air and land survey of Africa’s savannah elephants released last week revealed that the population had dropped by 30 percent in seven years.
Measured in the 18 countries that contain most of the population, the study counted 352,271 elephants remaining, an astonishing drop of 144,000 from 2007 to 2014. Called the Great Elephant Census, it was underwritten by the family foundation of Paul G. Allen, the Microsoft co-founder.
It is obvious that the total extermination of the African elephant, achieved mostly through poaching for ivory but also through habitat loss, is approaching real possibility. This is occurring in spite of the growing popularity of ecotourism and greater general environmental consciousness on the part of the world population.
Analysis of what is going on becomes more interesting looking at the countries involved. There are African countries that are relatively safe havens for elephants. These include Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Namibia, South Africa and Uganda. There are other African countries that either because of corruption, lack of attention to protection of the animals or out-of-control warfare are seeing their elephant stocks drop sharply.
Tanzania, a country where tourism is an important component in its economy, has lost two-thirds of its elephants. Angola, Cameroon, Mali, Mozambique and Zimbabwe are losing theirs. Namibia did not make numbers available for the survey. The Central African Republic, home to forest elephants found in the Congo River basin area, and South Sudan were considered too dangerous to be surveyed.
China is considered the richest market for ivory. It is either unwilling or unable to take the necessary steps to put an end to the market that causes the slaughter of the elephants, to its shame.
It will be to the great dishonor of humankind if the eventual disappearance of the African elephant occurs. Humans can obviously survive without elephants on this earth. But they can much more easily do without the geegaws and tacky works of art that are bringing about the extermination of elephants.