Elephant conservation and management

Elephant conservation and management

The African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) is without doubt the most spectacular species of that continent. It is the largest living terrestrial mammal. The species was originally present from the Cape of Good Hope to North Africa. The African elephant was practically eradicated in Southern Africa by the beginning of the century, but its populations have been steadily expanding in the last decades and, well conserved, are actually now overabundant in some countries such as Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. The Foundation, informed of the widespread poaching of elephants, leading to an expanding illegal international ivory trade, initiated in 1985, in collaboration with FAO and CITES, an ivory trade control system attributing legal ivory export quotas only to those African countries utilizing under control their own elephant populations. This system, accompanied by suitable ivory marking procedures, was put into place by CITES in 1986 and succeeded, within two years, in eliminating nearly all illegal international trade in ivory. Unfortunately, public disinformation campaigns in Europe and North America had been launched to declare the African elephant endangered, leading to a ban on ivory trade in 1989. This ban led to considerably reduced resources for anti-poaching activities. Elephant numbers continued to rise in Southern Africa, to decline in Eastern African and remained stable in Central Africa where poaching has kept elephants at a depressed level. In 1997, faced with those realities, CITES Parties voted to allow again international trade in ivory from those countries which had demonstrated their ability to conserve their elephants. Elephant and Protected Areas In Chobe National.Park (Botswana), overabundant elephants have in recent years completely destroyed the beautiful old riparian forest of the Park. In Amboseli National Park (Kenya), there are now more than 800 elephants, twice as many as the Park can support sustainably. Within the last twenty years, the woodland cover has disappeared to less than 10% of what it was, giraffe numbers plunged from 200 to less than 30, lesser kudu (Tragelaphus imberbis) and bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus) have become extinct after losing their habitat. Adult elephants eat more than 200 kg/day of vegetation. During a severe drought in the 70's, 7,000 elephants of Tsavo East National Park (Kenya) died of hunger after consuming all the trees and bushes. In Krüger National Park, (South Africa), which covers 2 million hectares and holds 8,000 elephants, 400 of them, i.e. 5% of the park's population, which corresponds to its annual increase, have had to be removed every year to prevent those megaherbivores from altering the park's landscapes since it is entirely fenced. Elephant and People Conflict Contrary to the image which the city-dwellers have of elephants i.e. large gentle giants, lovers of children, rural Africans regard them with fear, suspicion and hostility. Elephants, often coming out of protected areas, trample and eat their crops, destroy their granaries, fruit trees, dams and soil contours; worse, they kill hundreds of people in Africa each year. Those real costs borne by the Africans must be more than balanced by benefits if elephants are to be conserved. Otherwise, people will eliminate them in the long term. Sustainable Use of Elephants There are today several hundred thousand elephants in Africa. This number of animals can, on a sustainable basis, generate US $ 30 million /year from the sale of their ivory and 60,000 tons/year of meat; leather goods made from elephant skin are as profitable as the ivory; thousands of jobs derive from consumptive and non-consumptive use of elephants. The maximum sustainable yield (MSY) for elephant is around 5% of the population. Consumptive use of this portion has no impact on eco-tourism. On the other hand, it is a resource which can be used by the sale of animals, cropping and sport-hunting. Elephants' Value in U.S.Dollars / Hectare It must be noted that the safari hunting industry provides earnings in excess of U.S.$ 50 million per year in Southern Africa's communal lands. This corresponds in many cases to more than US $ 10/hectare. This figure, obtained from areas that are largely unsuitable for dry land farming, outcompetes commercial beef ranching. Where elephant hunting is carried out, trophy quotas are usually set at around 0.7% of Maximum Sustainable Yield and contributes up to nearly 35% of the income from the land.

 
 

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