62 Percent Of African Forest Elephants Killed In Last 10 Years: Study

By Staff Reporter on March 5, 2013 6:39 AM EST

Elephant
Population of African forest elephants decline (Photo: Flickr.com/brittanyhock)

A staggering 62 percent of forest elephants have been killed across Central Africa in the last 10 years, according to a new study.

Increased poaching, triggered by a rise in demand for ivory in the Far East and poverty at the local scale, is the major factor attributed to a significant decline in the population of African elephants. The findings have come amid fears that the forest elephants are becoming extinct.

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More than 60 scientists led by Dr Fiona Maisels, a scientist from Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), conducted the research between 2002 and 2011 in five Central African countries - Cameroon, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon and the Republic of Congo.

They surveyed the elephants and recorded over 11,000 samples of dung piles for their analysis. They found that a third of the land where the elephants once thrived 10 years ago have now become dangerous for them, as poachers are using road networks that are meant for logging to get access to these areas, reports BBC.

According to the researchers, elephants once covered a vast region of over 772,000 square miles in the forests. Now, they cover just a quarter of the area. Their study results show that very few elephants are found in places "with high human density, high infrastructure density such as roads, high hunting intensity, and poor governance as indicated by levels of corruption and absence of law enforcement," said the researchers.

Forest elephant is one of the two subspecies of African elephants - the other being Savanna (or bush) elephant. Forest elephants are found in the tropical forests of central and west Africa, in particular the Congo basin. They play a significant role in maintaining the biodiversity of tropical forests.

Conservationists have urged for taking immediate measures to protect the remaining population of forest elephants in Africa. They insisted on taking rapid and effective protection strategies to avoid further decline in elephant population. "Saving the species requires a coordinated global effort in the countries where elephants occur - all along the ivory smuggling routes, and at the final destination in the Far East. We don't have much time before elephants are gone," Maisels said in a statement.

The new report has been released at a time when the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is holding its conference in Bangkok, Thailand, from March 3 to March 14. Conservationists will share the data at the event and push for solutions

The findings of the study are published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.

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