Rapidly dwindling numbers of elephants and orangutans are gaining international attention. Elephants Without Borders (EWB) has completed the Great Elephant Census after two years of flying 81 aircraft across 18 countries. The results are shocking: for example, over a five-year period, poachers have claimed the lives of 60% of the elephant population in Tanzania. Elephant populations are hard to track, as some wander the plains, and others inhabit forest regions where they are hard to see.
The census was funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. The researchers involved in the survey stated: “About 95% of Democratic Republic of the Congo’s forests are soon likely to be almost empty of elephants; a country historically thought to have held the highest numbers.” It is only in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana where elephant populations are thought to be relatively stable.
The poaching of elephants was a high priority at the recent Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) conference, held at the end of September 2016 in Johannesburg.
African and European countries remained divided about how best to protect elephant herds in areas where they are vulnerable (EWB found over 200 poacher camps whilst taking the census). The Gabon representative told CITES delegates that his country was “haemorrhaging” about one tonne of ivory per month as a result of poaching.
He said that one thousand African park rangers had lost their lives over the past decade in fighting against the illegal trade. He wanted all delegates to agree that CITES should send an “absolutely clear” message that the trade in elephant ivory must stop.
Other countries argued that where elephant populations are stable, a trade in ivory could raise funds to protect the species. The deadlock meant that elephants were not upgraded to critically endangered species status at the CITES conference.
Meanwhile on Borneo Island in Indonesia, baby orang-utans are going to school at the International Animal Rescue Centre outside the city of Ketapang in West Kalimantan.
The 101 babies were orphaned when their families were killed by hunters, burned in landclearing fires or starved to death due to habitat loss. The species has dwindled by 50% in two decades, says the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF). Now, humans are going full steam ahead with the expansion of the logging and paper and palm oil production industries.
In the 1970s, in Borneo, more than 300 000 apes roamed free and could cross the island via the rainforest without ever touching the ground. Now, say experts, within 50 years, there will be no more orang-utans in Borneo.
The babies at jungle schools are being bottle-fed and are also learning how to protect themselves, should it be deemed possible to release them into the wild.
Category: Summer 2016