High demand for ivory in China is the cause of the steady decline in the population of elephants in Africa in recent times, Matthew Brown, Africa Region Conservation Director for The Nature Conservancy says.
In an interview with News Ghana from Arusha in Tanzania, Brown expressed growing concern about poaching of elephants on the continent.
Approximately 30,000 elephants are said to be killed each year for the last 4-5 years as a result of high price for ivory.
In Gabon, for example, over 50 percent of the forest elephants have been lost. The Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania lost 55 percent of its elephants in a 5 year period (about 12,000 elephants from one single game reserve in Africa).
The Africa Region Director says, “Today, 85% of the ivory leaves Africa for China through ports that are not able to search each container or to adequately patrol the borders.”
He explained the basis for the appetite for ivory from the continent by the Asian country.
“The demand in China is driven by the historic growth in the Chinese economy and the fact that ivory reached about 2,000 United States dollars per kilogram making it very lucrative for criminal syndicates to trade ivory and for the local rural African to partake in the poaching.”
Such practice, Brown explained had dire consequences for the economy of African countries.
“The impact is that local people suffer from the loss of tourism related jobs and tourism revenue and benefits. There are cases where tourism camps have closed and pulled out of communities because the concern for client safety was too high as a result of active poaching in that area.
Furthermore, elephants are a keystone species that help keep the environment in tact so that nature can provide clean drinking water, clean air and viable grasslands for livestock and for other wildlife,” he emphasized.
The Nature Conservancy Director for Africa Region identified inadequate funding, high demand for ivory in China and poorly monitored customs ports or trafficking as some of the key challenges they are encountering in their quest to protect the elephant population.
He called on governments and local communities to put in place proper programs and policies to minimize or eliminate elephants poaching in Africa.
Global leaders and environmentalists have instituted the celebration of World Elephants Day annually to raise awareness about elephants globally in order to help reduce the demand for purchasing ivory, incidentally, the leading cause of death for elephants.
Secondly, to raise awareness about the need to protect elephant habitat and for wildlife conservation in general. The leading threat to these animals is from humans, and organizers believe increasing awareness with humans is seen as a strategy to help keep them alive.
As part of activities to mark this year’s celebration on August 12, 2016, a series of social media campaigns across Africa, United States and China have been put in place.
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization working in 69 countries with a mission to protect the lands and waters upon which all life depends.
It is a science based, pragmatic, collaborative and often uses creative financial tools to help secure long term financing for its key priority places notably trust funds, debt swaps and ecosystem service payments.
It is currently working in 8 countries on the continent and has a team of approximately 80 people deployed across the region.
Some of the successes it has chalked over the years are in Zambia’s Kafue National Park where it supports government anti-poaching efforts through a local partner Game Rangers International.
The organization also conducted a national elephant census with the government in 2015 and found that elephant numbers are stable in the 5.6 million acre Kafue National Park despite low tourism revenue and never enough funding for park management.
It is also working in Tanzania and Kenya to improve the benefit flow to local communities as well as securing land ownership and improving governance and management capabilities.