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Elephants are running out of space and time

“Elephants can not be manufactured. Once they are gone they can not be replaced” Dr Iain Douglas-Hamilton

Ask any wildlife guide working in Africa their most rewarding subject and odds-on the answer will be elephant. The reasons are multiple, they are obviously big and charismatic, live in groups so there’s lots of family dynamics to observe, and they’re always up to something – typically eating.

With patience and favourable conditions elephants are also surprisingly approachable. Being seriously myopic they rely on their other senses, hearing and smell, to sense danger, and as sound and scent are carried on the breeze an upwind approach can bring you remarkably close – being a stone’s throw away from these rumbling giants is an experience that even the most wizened of guides is unlikely to tire of. This has also made elephants extremely vulnerable to poaching.

Savanna Elephants occur in virtually every habitat type from sub-deserts to swamps, lowland rainforests, gallery and montane forest, upland moors, flood-plains, savannas and various types of woodland from sea level up to 4875m.

Historically elephants inhabited virtually the entire African continent, today they are restricted to south of the Sahara, occupying 20% of their historic range where their distribution is patchy and fragmented. The main cause being habitat loss and poaching for ivory.

An estimated 100 African Elephants are killed every day - that's over 100,000 every three years. In 2011 alone it is reckoned that one in every 12 African Elephants was killed by a poacher. An insatiable demand for ivory products makes the illegal trade extremely profitable, between 2010 and 2014 the ivory price in China tripled. As of 2011 the world is losing more elephants than the population can reproduce.

Elephants are running out of space and time – unless we collectively stop the poaching and consumer demand for ivory and allocate protected natural habitat and proper resources in counties where elephants and other wildlife can thrive now and in the future.

Can we seriously contemplate a future without elephants?

Posted by: Rod Tether

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