Elephant Poaching on the Rise in Africa


An elephant calf and its mother. PHOTO: Sabi Sabi
An elephant calf and its mother. PHOTO: Sabi Sabi

The World Wildlife Fund recently reported that poachers killed 89 elephants in one night near the town of Ganba, Chad. It is not the first time it has happened and it is likely to happen again if poachers are not stopped.

In 2011 alone, approximately 17,000 elephants were killed in Africa for their ivory tusks. Poachers ship ivory to Asia and other markets where they are sold illegally.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species identified Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, along with top ivory buyers, China and Thailand, as making insufficient efforts to stop the trade. If more governments chose to take action, this could become a felony and the elephant poachers could be put in jail.

The United Nations Environment Programme, an organization that focuses on wildlife, states that to help save elephants’ lives, we must “reduce market demand for illegal ivory by conducting targeted and effective awareness-raising campaigns about the devastating impacts of the illegal trade in ivory.”

Stephanie Vergniault, founder of SOS Elephants, an organization working in Chad to put a stop to the elephant poaching, agrees. “The international community should pressure all the states buying [ivory] to condemn it,” says Vergniault.

Elephants help maintain forest and savanna ecosystems.* If African elephants become extinct from poaching, it could hurt communities and wildlife in their native habitats, while the corpses abandoned by poachers can spread disease and contaminate water sources for villages.

“Saving wildlife is the responsibility of all thinking people,” says Dr. Sheldrick of The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, an organization that rescues baby elephants when their families are killed. After the orphaned elephants reach maturity, they are released back into the wild.

* The African savanna ecosystem is a tropical grassland with warm temperatures year-round and with its highest seasonal rainfall in the summer. (National Geographic Education)

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