|Photo by Caroline Granycome.|
[Editor's note: The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said this week that 68 elephants have been killed in Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the past two months, with AFP reporting 30 killed in just over two weeks. Armed Militants have aggressively moved into the poaching business to use money from illegal ivory to buy food, weapons and ammunition.]By
A recent summit on elephant population and habitat has led to some dire predictions: the African elephant may go extinct within our lifetimes.
Putting the end date at just decades away, the African Elephant Summit, which hosted delegates from various Asian, European and African countries, focused on mitigating poaching and increasing elephant habitats around the continent.
The statistics presented are staggering. In the 1940s, there were thought to be around 3-5 million African elephants in the wild. These days conservation organizations are estimating only 500,000 to 700,000 elephants currently exist. The largest drops came during the 1980′s when the continent saw widespread turbulence. Rather than rising back up from the fall when stability took over much of the region, increased poaching has hastened the elephant’s population decline.
The summit highlighted the link between poverty, infant mortality and poaching, showing a correlation between desperate communities, and how susceptible they can be to engaging in the illegal wildlife trade.
Yet, despite these dire warnings, there is a small beacon of hope in the midst.
Uganda, which saw a dramatic loss in wildlife during the 1980 bush wars, has become an example to many African nations on how to reintroduce the species while combating poaching. In 1982 the population of elephants in Uganda fell to the drastically low number of 2,000. Today, that number has more than doubled with more than 5,000 elephants roaming freely and steady population increases.