The illegal ivory trade is not the only reason the iconic African Elephant populations are declining at alarming rates.
Spotlight on Species 2015/2016.
For an entire year we are focusing on some of Africa’s most beautiful and unique species for a month. (Scroll down for infographic)
July 2015 – The African Elephant
The African elephant is the largest land mammal on the planet. It has two sub-species, the Savanna elephant and the Forest elephant. Unfortunately, the African elephant is classified as Vulnerable, with only 472,000 to 690,000 individuals as compared to the 5 million estimated in the 1930s and 1940s. The causes of this drastic population decrease are the following:
Illegal Ivory Trade:
Ivory has been used since the sixth millennium BC for tools and its aesthetic value. Although there are many sources of ivory, elephant ivory is the most wanted due to its texture and it´s lack of outer coating. About 70% of the illegal ivory trade is centered in China, where a single pound can cost $1,000-$1,500. This leads to 30,000-38,000 elephants being killed every year. In 2011 alone, poachers are estimated to have killed 40,000 African elephants.
Poaching for elephant meat is another threat to elephant herds. Poverty, war and over-exploitation of natural resources leads to African elephants being used as a source of wild meat.
Habitat loss and fragmentation due to commercial logging, mining, the conversion of forest land into plantations, and the construction of settlements has decreased the elephants´ range from three million square miles in 1979, to just over one million square miles as of 2007.
Conflict with Humans:
Since the human population is expanding, it often comes into contact with elephant territory, forcing both species to compete for resources. Due to the damage that is sometimes caused by the elephants during these encounters, these conflicts often end with elephant deaths.
Contributed by Nikela Volunteer Alba Lawrenson
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