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African Forest Elephants Going Extinct, Experts Say

Mar 05, 2013 02:41 AM EST
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Thursday the United Nations Security Council renewed a host of sanctions against the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), drawing praise from conservation groups such as the World Wildlife Fund who contend that armed groups and the flow of illegal weapons in the DRC are enabling wildlife crime.
(Photo : © Naftali Honig, PALF - Project for the Application of Law for Fauna/ Wildlife Conservation Society )

According to a new study, elephants in Africa are slowly going extinct. Researchers estimate that in Central Africa, there has been a 62 percent decline in the number of African forest elephants over the past 10 years.

"The analysis confirms what conservationists have feared: the rapid trend towards extinction - potentially within the next decade - of the forest elephant," said Dr. Samantha Strindberg of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), one of the lead authors of the study.

The study included more than 60 scientists who worked on the research between 2002 and 2011. Scientists along with national conservation staff collected data on the elephants from five countries which included Cameroon, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon and the Republic of Congo.

The study is published in the journal PLOS ONE.

A previous study, also published in PLOS ONE, had said that elephants living in West African Savannahs are slowly being snuffed out of existence, with Central Africa showing declining elephant numbers over the past few decades. This study had shown that ivory trading and change in the land use pattern in this region was driving the decline of elephants over the past 40 years.

The African forest elephants are distinct from the African Savannah elephant as they are smaller. These elephants play an important role in maintaining the biodiversity of the region. According to a news release from Wildlife Conservation Society, a lot of effort needs to be put in for conserving the last few wild African forest elephants.

"Forest elephants need two things: they need adequate space in which to range normally, and they need protection. Unprotected roads, most often associated with exploitation for timber or other natural resources, push deeper and deeper into the wilderness, tolling the death knell for forest elephants. Large road-free areas must be maintained, and the roads that do exist must have effective wildlife protection plans if forest elephants are to survive," said Dr. Stephen Blake of the Max Planck Institute.

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