African elephants (Loxodonta africana) are some of the world’s most loved and charismatic animals. Yet, we still know little about the extraordinary sensitivity and cognitive abilities of these giants, which are able to sense storms from miles away, among other things. Their mysterious brain (whose number of neurons is three times that of humans) could remain unknown, as the species faces extinction due to the illegal ivory trade.
Gabon’s forest elephants have been decimated
Elephants in Gabon are going through a critical moment. According to a research carried out by a group of researchers of the Duke University and published in the journal Current Biology, 25,000 forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) have been killed between 2004 and 2014. Forest elephants are smaller than Savannah elephants, and Gabon is their last stronghold. In just 10 years, the population of forest elephants in Gabon’s Minkebe National Park decreased by 80 per cent.
“With nearly half of Central Africa’s estimated 100,000 forest elephants thought to live in Gabon, the loss of 25,000 elephants from this key sanctuary is a considerable setback for the preservation of the species,” said John Poulsen, assistant professor of tropical ecology at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.
Conservation efforts must be intensified
In order to reverse this worrying trend and save elephants from poachers, conservation efforts need to be intensified. The study’s authors suggest that “we need to create new multinational protected areas and coordinate international law enforcement to ensure the prosecution of foreign nationals who commit or encourage wildlife crimes in other countries”. Also, they called on the international community to urge countries to ban the ivory trade. Most importantly, education programmes must show local populations that elephants are worth more when alive.
The first NGO that puts an intelligence network at the service of the planet. People who work in the shadows to eradicate poaching and save elephants along with other endangered species. This is the Elephant Action League, and we spoke to its founder Andrea Crosta.
Three rangers have been shot dead in Garamba National Park. This is yet another demonstration that the Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the most dangerous places for wildlife and conservationists.