Saturday 25 October 2014

Poachers wiped out 100,000 of Africa's elephants between 2010 and 2012 - study

Published 18/08/2014 | 20:00

A young elephant walks with adult elephants on a road near Pretoria, in South Africa August 8, 2014.  A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says that the hunt for ivory has seen more than 100,000 elephants in Africa die at the hands of poachers in just three years.  Photograph taken on August 8, 2014.     REUTERS/Toby Melville (BRITAIN - Tags: ANIMALS CRIME LAW SOCIETY)
A young elephant walks with adult elephants on a road near Pretoria, in South Africa August 8, 2014. A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says that the hunt for ivory has seen more than 100,000 elephants in Africa die at the hands of poachers in just three years. Photograph taken on August 8, 2014. Photo: Reuters/Toby Melville
An elephant feeds at night time near Pretoria, in South Africa August 8, 2014.  A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says that the hunt for ivory has seen more than 100,000 elephants in Africa die at the hands of poachers in just three years.  Photograph taken on August 8, 2014.     REUTERS/Toby Melville (BRITAIN - Tags: ANIMALS CRIME LAW SOCIETY)
An elephant feeds at night time near Pretoria, in South Africa August 8, 2014. A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says that the hunt for ivory has seen more than 100,000 elephants in Africa die at the hands of poachers in just three years. Photograph taken on August 8, 2014. Photo: Reuters/Toby Melville
Embargoed to 2000 Monday August 18

Undated Colorado State University handout photo of two adult elephants killed in close proximity in northern Kenya. Clustered kills are a sign of professional poaching. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday August 18, 2014. Poaching is inflicting unsustainable losses on African elephants, with more than 33,600 animals killed each year between 2010 and 2012, a study has shown. Over that period alone an estimated 6.8% of the continent's elephant population was wiped out by the illegal ivory trade, say scientists. See PA story SCIENCE Elephants. Photo credit should read: Image courtesy of Chris Leadisimo/Colorado State University/PA Wire

NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
An estimated 6.8% of the continent's elephant population was wiped out by the illegal ivory trade, say scientists. Photo: Image courtesy of Chris Leadisimo/Colorado State University/PA Wire

Poaching is inflicting unsustainable losses on African elephants, with more than 33,600 animals killed each year between 2010 and 2012, a study has shown.

Over that period alone an estimated 6.8% of the continent's elephant population was wiped out by the illegal ivory trade, say scientists.

In central Africa, the worst affected region, poaching led to a 63.7% fall in elephant numbers between 2002 and 2012.

Evidence suggests a strong link between the slaughter, the price of ivory and increasing demand in China where carved ornaments made from elephant tusks are highly prized.

Researchers writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggested that the very existence of the African elephant was threatened.

They wrote: "Our analysis demonstrates the heavy toll illegal ivory trade is taking on African elephants, and suggests current off-take exceeds the intrinsic growth capacity of the species."

The team led by Dr George Wittemyer, from Colorado State University in the US, began by conducting a survey of elephant carcasses in Kenya's Samburu National Reserve.

Poaching rates in Samburu were strongly associated with local market price increases for ivory and larger number of seizures of ivory bound for China.

Carcass survey data covering 45 sites throughout Africa were then used to extrapolate these findings on a continental scale using two different statistical methods.

The results showed that illegal killing was most pervasive in central Africa. And while savannah elephant populations in east and southern Africa were relatively stable or growing between 2002 and 2009, they then went into decline.

Overall, the slaughter peaked in 2011 with 8% of Africa's elephants illegally killed - a total of more than 40,000 animals - leading to a probable species reduction of 3% that year alone.

The researchers concluded: "These results provide the most comprehensive assessment of illegal ivory harvest to date and confirm that current ivory consumption is not sustainable."

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