News / Africa

More Than 20,000 Elephants Poached In Africa Last Year

Journalists take pictures of the confiscated African ivory which will be destroyed as Hong Kong cracks down on an illegal wildlife trade that is devastating Africa's elephant population, Hong Kong, May 15, 2014.
Journalists take pictures of the confiscated African ivory which will be destroyed as Hong Kong cracks down on an illegal wildlife trade that is devastating Africa's elephant population, Hong Kong, May 15, 2014.
Lisa Schlein
A major wildlife conservation group reports more than 20,000 African elephants were poached across the African continent last year.  CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, warns that poaching contributes to the continuing decline in elephant populations.  

According to CITES, 2013 was the third year in a row more than 20,000 elephants have been killed across the African continent.  It says the sharp upward trend in illegal elephant killing observed since the mid-2000s peaked in 2011 and is leveling off.

But, CITES Secretary-General, John Scanlon, says poaching levels remain alarmingly high.  He says Africa’s elephants continue to face an immediate threat to their survival from high levels of poaching for their ivory.  

“We are still seeing the elephant populations in decline, which means that the levels of illegal killing are exceeding the natural birthrates.  But, overall, the population of the African elephant is in decline.  However…the upward trends we saw that became very sharp in 2010 and 2011 in terms of the levels of illegal killing have started to level off.  But, at a level that is far too high; namely we still have over 20,000 African elephants killed per year." said Scanlon.

The CITES report shows an increase in the number of large seizures of ivory made in 2013.  For the first time, the conservation group says more smuggled ivory was seized in Africa than in Asia, where the market for the illegal product is huge.

It says three African countries - Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda - account for 80 percent of those seizures.  Scanlon says the large scale of the ivory seizures indicate transnational organized crime and rebel militia are involved in the illicit ivory trade.  He says this demands a stronger, more concerted response from the international community.

“This is a serious crime.  It needs to be treated as a serious crime and we need to deploy the same sorts of techniques that are used to combat other serious crimes, such as illicit trade in narcotics or human trafficking or illicit trade in arms," he said. "At one point of time, a seizure was seen as a success under CITES.  What we are saying is a seizure is not a success.  It is important.  It is a critical part of the process.  You have to go beyond the seizure.  And you have to go beyond the seizure to find actually who is at the end of that, who wanted that in the first place?  Who ordered that?  How do you catch them? "

CITES monitors 51 sites across Africa to keep tabs on illegal killing of elephants.  It finds the greatest increase in poaching was in Dzanga Sangha in Central African Republic.  On the other hand, it says poaching levels decreased substantially in parks in Chad, Zimbabwe and Uganda.

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by: Don from: Kenya
June 15, 2014 11:27 AM
China last reported 6 tons of confiscated ivory in January 2014. Instead of destroying the ivory, the Chinese Government should purchase the ivory and recompense the African wildlife conservation groups to support indigenous employment. Artisanal Ivory is a specialist Chinese classical industry and should be preserved using humane methods of production and supply. Continental Africans who use elephants, rhinos, primates and other bushmeat as a food source should be financially supported by China to manage co-operative 'farmed elephant and game meat products'. Just like the Africans, the Chinese are also adventurous food consumers.

by: Stephen
June 13, 2014 2:48 PM
This is a serious crime. It needs to be treated as such...........
Really Mr John Scanlon, dictators in African have been responsible for the deaths of thousands of people, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, CAR, Nigeria, to mention just a few. It appears elephants are more important that people, something you need to be aware of when talking about Africa.
In Response

by: Suebee from: Minneapolis, MN - USA
June 13, 2014 6:09 PM
Seriously Stephen - it is a horrific crime. Just because this article focuses on the thousands upon thousands of elephants being killed for ivory does not mean that anyone cares less about the people who have been murdered. Can't we care about more than one issue at a time??? Elephants are important as well as people. And they are on the verge of extinction due to the lust for money gained by killing these beautiful animals for their ivory..some people are brutes who care nothing for human life or lives of innocent animals. Please rethink your attitude and realize that it's okay for us to be upset over this terrible crime. I care about the people too, as I'm sure almost everyone does. It's important to bring all of the sad and horrible issues out in the open.

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