From wars to poverty, there is an exponential amount of strife circumnavigating the globe. Socially, economically and politically when we go mano-a-mano with each other, we can’t seem to get it right, no matter how many centuries have come to past. But environmentally, this should not be the case, particularly when it pertains to other lifeforms that share the planet with us. Extinction is serious business. The wiping out of an entire species is an unbalance that has consequences — and it’s unthinkable we are not doing more to thwart conditions that lead to that type of travesty.
African Population Declines 30 Percent
The most recent ‘Great Elephant Census’ shows that savanna elephant populations in 18 countries declined by 30 percent, where most of the animals counted were in protected areas. This $7 million dollar tally revealed that this population decreased nearly a third (or 144,000 animals) between 2007 and 2014.
The survey relied on significant resources to make it happen. It was funded in part by an American philanthropist, Paul Allen, and was a collaboration between Elephants Without Borders (EWB), a long with government and non-government groups in 18 countries.
"If we can't protect the world's largest land mammal, the prognosis for wildlife conservation is bleak," says Mike Chase, the lead scientist on the project and the founder of EWB, based in Botswana.
In the past, individual countries counted their own elephant populations, which didn’t provided standardized results. Different governments counted animals at different frequencies, using different methods. The Great Elephant Census changed all that, providing a standardized baseline of the savanna population across the 18 nations.
To accomplish this task, the census team used small aircraft to fly over enormous swaths of land, recording themselves counting and photographing the elephants they saw. Then the technical group reviewed the data to make sure they weren't counting elephants twice — a concern due to the constant movement of the subjects.
Past & Present Comparisons
Previous calculations of the elephant population in Africa ranged from around 400,000 to over 630,000, and there was a lot of disagreement about the numbers. The Great Elephant Census estimate, based on the most rigorous survey so far, finds there are just 352,271 elephants in 93 percent of the animals' range.
Why Potential Extinction?
Much of the decline in the elephant population is due to illegal poaching by opportunists who sell elephant tusks on the Chinese market, according to a report by NPR. Past estimates of how many elephants are illegally killed were based on models and incomplete carcass counts, as opposed to comparing population numbers. The new survey finds tens of thousands of elephants are being killed each year.
In a previous post, titled Retire the ‘GOP Elephant’ If Trump Becomes President?, I reported on Donald Trump’s two sons, Donald Jr. and Eric Trump involved in the horrendous practice of killing elephants. When questioned on this travesty, both sons made no apologies for hunting wild game as sport. They don’t see anything wrong with killing endangered species. In an attempt to justify their killings, they indicate they feed the meat to indigenous people in various regions of Africa.
But is that a justifiable reason to kill an animal on its way to extinction? Elephants cannot and and should not be reduced in numbers due to greed, nor gamesmanship. Readers, please weigh in and let us know how you feel about these practices and the potential extinction of elephants.
To help, with your support, we can expand our efforts to protect elephants from poaching and provide them with safe, healthy habitat while benefiting the lives of people who live among them. Please donate to the Nature Conservancy.