Experts have warned that African elephants could be extinct in the wild within the next few decades at a major conservation summit in Botswana. The summit highlighted the alarming decline in numbers (drop from 550,000 in 2006 to 470,000 in 2013) and attributed this to poaching activities with Dune Ives, a senior researcher at Vulcan warning In five years we may have lost the opportunity to save this magnificent and iconic animal.”
Poaching is often a result of international criminal networks that supply the illegal ivory trade, mainly in Asia with well established trade routes from Kenya and Tanzania through transit countries like Vietnam and the Philippines before arriving in China and Thailand. Some profits of the trade are also thought to fund regional conflicts.
Ivory is reportedly bought at $100 per kg ($45 per pound) from poachers, and sold for $2,100 in China.
The Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) are also due to meet during April 2015 to focus on the trafficking of all threatened species – an illegal trade worth $19bn a year, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
Looking to the future and ways of conserving elephant populations, Julian Blanc, an elephant specialist for the Convention of Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) said the link between poverty in Africa and poaching highlighted one way to tackle the illegal killing of elephants. “We have monitored a direct correlation between human infant mortality [a measure of poverty] at district level and levels of poaching”. Addressing poverty will be a significant factor that will influence the success of conservation efforts.