Findings of the multinational teamís first continent-wide survey of African elephants show a deep decline in the spicesí population, something that has expects concerned. The Great Elephant Census, which so far includes 18 countries, indicates that the population of African savannah elephants is plummeting eight percent every year.
“These dramatic declines in elephant populations are almost certainly due to poaching for ivory,” wrote the researchers, who are drawn from conservation groups, government agencies and universities in the United States, Europe and Africa. The findings were presented this week at the World Conservation Congress in Honolulu, and published August 31 in the journal PeerJ.
The team focused on the largest and densest elephant populations, and counted both living elephants and carcasses from planes and helicopters. Together, they spent over 1,500 hours in 2014 and 2015 observing the animals over about a quarter of their range.
Overall, the census yielded a population estimate of 352,271, which the researchers believe accounts for 93% of
Botswana held 37% of the elephant population, Zimbabwe 23% and Tanzania 12%. Data from older estimates in fifteen of these countries indicate that elephant populations were actually on the rise between 1995 and 2007. But amidst a renewed outbreak of poaching, the population dropped by about 144,000 elephants, or 30%, between 2007 and 2014. The researchers calculated that, continent-wide, the population plunged by eight percent every year between 2010 and 2014. If this keeps up, the areas included in the census could lose half their savannah elephants every nine years, and the elephants may soon vanish entirely from some areas.