Mystery over 730,000 missing Elephants
UP to 730,000 elephants are estimated to be missing from protected areas across Africa, a shocking conservation study reveals today.
It means that a third of the elephants’ precious refuges have fewer than five per cent of the animals they should be protecting – with “pervasive poaching” to blame.
Yet researchers who have produced the astonishing figures say they should not be treated as “doom and gloom” statistics and believe their findings can go on to help conserve the planet’s largest land mammal.
In reality, there are only 350,000 African elephants left roaming across 93 per cent of their range.
Describing the study as a wake-up call, researchers say that with elephants not doing well even in protected areas, it means there is an imperative need to take action.
The figures were revealed today after a study by the Conservation Ecology Research Unit (CERU) at the University of Pretoria estimated the number of elephants that should be present in 73 protected areas spanning 21 African countries.
Announcing the findings, lead author of the study, Ashley Robson, said: “In the past, we’ve had relatively good estimates of how many elephants there are and how many are poached. But now, we’ve determined how many elephants there should be in the first place.
“While the magnitude of loss due to poaching is devastating – 730 000 elephants are missing across the 73 protected areas assessed – I don’t see our work as more doom and gloom.
On the contrary, we provide ecologically meaningful goals for elephant conservationists to work toward. It’s a positive step for elephants.”
Using remote sensing of key elephant resources – vegetation and water – as well as poaching statistics along with the largest population database for any mammal species, researchers have been to model the densities at which elephant populations should stabilise.
The findings have been published in PLOS ONE.
Article source: MINA.