Posted in: Animal News

African Forest Elephants: Ivory Poaching Causes Extinction Worries

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African forest elephant extinction danger is increasing due to ivory poachers. The illegal hunting practices have reportedly killed two-thirds of the already dwindling population.

A new study recently released at the Cites Bangkok summit revealed the mounting hurdles the forest elephants are facing in their battle for survival. Approximately 100,000 African elephants are still roaming free in central forest regions. The herd numbers are significantly lower than the population of the somewhat larger elephants found in savanna regions, The Guardian notes.

Ivory poaching has been an increasing problem over the past decade. Researchers at the international wildlife meeting in Bangkok detailed the African forest elephant extinction worries. Thailand and China are widely considered to boast the biggest ivory-trading markets in the world. The two nations have been “put on notice” that trade sanctions will be imposed if ivory poaching is not taken far more seriously. The total elephant population was over one million just three decades ago.

Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) scientist Samantha Strindberg had this to say about ivory poaching and African forest elephants:

“The analysis confirms what conservationists have feared: the rapid trend towards extinction – potentially within the next decade, of the forest elephant.”

Forest elephants living in the region of central Africa torn apart by war and lawlessness have been hit particularly hard by ivory poachers. He tusks of these particular type of elephants are straighter, longer, and harder, than the savanna elephants. Many ivory carvers reportedly prefer the tusks of African forest elephants above all others.

The Gabon National Park was once the home of the largest forest elephant population in the entire world. Head of the park service, Professor Lee White, had this to say about the extinction worries caused by ivory poachers in Africa:

“A rainforest without elephants in a barren place. They bring it to life, they create the trails and keep open the forest clearings for other animals to use. They disperse the seeds of many of the rainforest trees. Elephants are forest gardeners at a vast scale.”

Deforestation is taking away a lot of the African elephant habitat. The combination of the lack of a suitable living environment and the influx of heavily armed ivory poachers could spell extinction for the elephants in just a few more decades. The massive creatures once roamed across the forests in the region, but now they “cower” in an area just a quarter of their original habitat.

An African forest elephant study published by Plos One was a nine-year endeavor. The research team walked more than 13,000 km during the elephant study. The team determined that the forest elephant population decreased by 62 percent between 2002 and 2011. The population is now reportedly less than 10 percent of its original size.

What do you think should be done to stop ivory poachers and the deforestation threatening the African forest elephants with extinction?

[Image Via: Shutterstock.com]

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