Environmental protection organizations are sounding the alarm: African elephants are on the verge of extinction. It’s not just poachers to blame.
Tourists go on safari because of elephants. To marvel at the great giants of Africa in the wild is the dream of many. But the impressive animals are more endangered than ever.
The situation for the elephants has deteriorated since the last assessment in 2008. Now, according to the nature conservation organization “International Union for Conservation of Nature”, different dangers apply to different species.
Hunting and scarce habitat
While savannah elephants are now judged to be “endangered”, forest elephants are “critically endangered”. This is a stage before extinction in the wild.
The reasons for this are similar for both elephant species: habitat loss and hunting. For decades, African countries have been trying to get the illegal hunting of elephants under control.
But greed for ivory takes its toll again and again: between 2008 and 2011 alone, around 100,000 elephants fell victim to the hunt.
Particularly endangered: the forest elephants
Especially for the forest elephants, the habitat is dwindling due to the deforestation of the primeval forest in West Africa. In addition, they are particularly popular because of their harder ivory, says Ben Okita. He is an elephant researcher in Nairobi (Kenya) with the organization “Save the Elefants”.
At the moment there are still a good 400,000 elephants in Africa: The population of savanna elephants has declined by half in the last 30 years, that of forest elephants by 80 percent.
Forest elephants later become sexually mature
Another disadvantage in the forest elephant’s struggle for survival is its fertility, explains Okita. Forest elephants become sexually mature later and therefore only give birth to their offspring later.
Nevertheless, the elephant researcher has hope. The elephant population has stabilized in various smaller areas in South African countries and in countries such as Gabon, Congo, Kenya and Rwanda.
There is better protection and stricter legislation there. But generally in Africa you have to protect the landscape better from use, says elephant researcher Okita. Only then is there a real chance that the elephants will not become extinct.