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Great Elephant Census: African Savvanah Elephants Hit 30 Percent Decline, Ivory Poaching to Blame

Sep 03, 2016 06:49 AM EDT
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After news of African forest elephants taking over 90 years for its population to recover due to slow breeding, its cousin, Africa's savanna elephants, are dwindling in numbers too.

According to a continent-wide survey released in the journal Peer J called the Great Elephant Census, Africa now only has 352,271 savanna elephants left in the wild. The massive decline mainly attributed to two things: ivory poaching and habitat destruction.

The aerial survey, called the Great Elephant Census, went across 18 countries in Africa and found out that between 2007 and 2014, in a span of seven years, the numbers of Savannah elephants experienced a 30 percent decline (144,000 elephants). Researchers estimate that 8 percent of the species or 27,000 elephants die every year from ivory poaching,

The effects of ivory poaching worsen as according to the survey, the elephant population in Mozambique's Niassa Reserve in Tanzania decreased by a dramatic 75 percent in the past decade. This massive decline was attributed to poachers wiping out family herds, CNN reports.

Meanwhile, in Ethiopia, the Babile Elephant Sanctuary only has one single heard of elephant remaining in its premises.

The Savannah elephant populations in central and west Africa were excluded in the study as these areas were difficult to survey on air. However, National Geographic notes that there have been reports that elephants here are facing the problem of habitat loss.

"When you think of how many elephants occurred in areas 10 or 20 years ago, it's incredibly disheartening," said ecologist Mike Chase, the founder of Elephants Without Borders and lead scientist of the study via CNN. "Historically these ecosystems supported many thousands of elephants compared to the few hundreds or tens of elephants we counted."

Paul G. Allen, Microsoft founder who backed up the ambitious three-year project, told National Geographic that the information from studies, such as the Great Elephant Census, would lead us to "to make faster, smarter, better decisions about how and where we direct limited resources.”

This news comes at a great time as the welfare and regulation of animal species will be at the forefront of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Johannesburg, South Africa later this month.

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