Good New and Bad News for Elephants

02 June 2015 | Wildlife Conservation Society News Release

NEW YORKThe Tanzanian Government on June 1st through the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism announced the results of the national elephant census that was conducted from May to November 2014. The census aimed to provide knowledge and understanding of the current status of elephant populations across Tanzania. The surveys were conducted as part of the Great Elephant Census®, a Paul G. Allen Project.

The census revealed some encouraging increases in elephant populations in the north of the country, notably the Serengeti and Tarangire National Parks. These areas benefit from high levels of protection and tourism, and the former has also experienced elephant immigration from Kenya. However, the countrywide census results reveal an estimate of 43,330 elephants, compared to the 2009 census showing 109,051. This represents a loss of 65,721 elephants in 5 years (a 60.3 percent decline nationally).

A key elephant stronghold is the Ruaha-Rungwa ecosystem. The population in 2009 was 30,000 before declining to 20,090 in 2013 and further to only 8,272 estimated in 2014; a 76 percent decline between 2009 and 2014. 

These results bring into focus the extent of elephant poaching for the ivory trade, and how this continues to threaten the existence of elephants in Tanzania. The Tanzanian government has taken some positive steps and are greatly commended for revealing these troubling figures so openly. 

The U.S. Government is providing political and financial support to a number of elephant range states, including Tanzania, in a bid to encourage greater elephant protection. At the end of 2014, just after this census was conducted, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) signed a 5-year agreement with USAID aimed in part at contributing to the protection of elephants across the Ruaha-Katavi Landscape. Working with Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA), the Wildlife Division (WD), the Southern Tanzania Elephant Project (STEP) and other partners, a number of actions including aerial surveillance will be implemented in a bid to reverse the drastic declines recorded. It is hoped these activities can begin immediately.

In the Tarangire ecosystem WCS has been studying the elephant population for over 20 years. Here WCS has worked with communities to protect elephant dispersal areas and migration corridors, hired community game scouts to patrol outside the Park and provided anti-poaching vehicles. For many years the population of elephants in Tarangire NP has been among the fastest growing in Africa, a testament to how elephants can increase when provided with good protection.  

Protecting Tanzania’s elephants is a global responsibility and requires a global response. WCS is working with partners across the African continent to tackle the continuing ivory crisis.

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Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)

MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. VISION: WCS envisions a world where wildlife thrives in healthy lands and seas, valued by societies that embrace and benefit from the diversity and integrity of life on earth. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in more than 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City,  visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: www.wcs.org; http://www.facebook.com/TheWCS; http://www.youtube.com/user/WCSMedia  Follow: @thewcs.

96 Elephants
WCS is leading global efforts to save Africa’s elephants and end the current poaching and ivory trafficking crisis. In 2013, WCS launched its 96 Elephants campaign to bring together world citizens, partners, thought leaders, and change makers to leverage collective influence to stop the killing, stop the trafficking, and stop the demand. The campaign, which has partners from around the world including 125 U.S. zoos, focuses on: securing effective moratoria on sales of ivory; bolstering elephant protection; and educating the public about the link between ivory consumption and the elephant poaching crisis. www.96elephants.org

About the Great Elephant Census: Flying over more than 18 countries and involving more than 50 scientists, covering thousands of transects and more than 600,000 km in 2014 and 2015, the Great Elephant Census is the most comprehensive project of its kind to form an essential baseline for future African elephant conservation efforts.  Because of the remoteness of many wildlife areas in Africa, aerial counts continue to be an important tool for wildlife management and one of the most impactful ways we can drive conservation efforts for species like the elephant. Paul G. Allen has partnered with Elephants Without Borders and other organizations to conduct the Great Elephant Census, an urgently needed and bold undertaking.


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Endangered Earth News is Produced by Endangered Species Journalist Craig Kasnoff

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