News / Health

    Connect the Dots: Infant Mortality, Graft and Elephant Poaching

    A severely malnourished child lays by his mother at Bangui's pediatric center in Bangui, Dec. 17, 2013.A severely malnourished child lays by his mother at Bangui's pediatric center in Bangui, Dec. 17, 2013.
    x
    A severely malnourished child lays by his mother at Bangui's pediatric center in Bangui, Dec. 17, 2013.
    A severely malnourished child lays by his mother at Bangui's pediatric center in Bangui, Dec. 17, 2013.
    Reuters
    What do infant mortality and elephant poaching have in common?  Plenty, according to conservation groups.

    Researchers have for the first time made clear connections between elephant poaching in Africa, which has been surging to meet soaring ivory demand in Asia, and factors such as poverty, as shown by high rates of child deaths, and corruption.

    These links have always been suspected but never pinned down with hard data.

    The findings come in a report prepared for an African elephant summit in Botswana in December by groups including TRAFFIC, which tracks the global trade in wildlife products, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

    Areas where child mortality and poverty are worst also see higher levels of elephant poaching, but poor villagers typically do not benefit from the illicit ivory trade.

    In this regard, the ivory trade - with its long and blood-stained history - is similar to other extractive industries in Africa, which have been exploited to meet demand elsewhere with few rewards for local people.

    Demand for ivory - used for carvings and valued for millennia for its color and texture - has been rising sharply in newly affluent Asian countries, notably China, fuelling a new wave of elephant slaughter.

    Following a decline in the 1990s, poaching of the world's largest land mammal has risen dramatically and in 2012 an estimated 15,000 elephants were illegally killed at 42 sites in Africa monitored by MIKE - the U.N.-backed program for Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants.

    Since 2010, elephant poaching levels in Africa have exceeded 5 percent of the total population - a tipping point because killings are now outpacing the animals' birth rate.

    In a related trend, the killing of rhinos for their horns - used in traditional medicine in Vietnam and China - has also soared, notably in South Africa, home to the vast majority of the animals.

    According to South African government statistics, as of Dec. 19, a record 946 rhinos had been poached in the country in 2013, compared to 668 in all of 2012.

    Poverty proxy

    The report found a striking link between infant mortality rates - measured by the number of deaths of infants under one year old per 10,000 live births - and the illegal killing of elephants.

    “Human infant mortality, which is interpreted as a proxy for poverty, is the single strongest site-level correlate ... with sites suffering from higher levels of poverty experiencing higher levels of elephant poaching,” the report said.

    The relationship between poverty and poaching - in Africa and elsewhere - has long been assumed because wildlife is a source of food or money for impoverished rural dwellers.

    But links between measurements of poverty and living standards, such as infant mortality, and the illicit killing of elephants, have not been made before with the kind of clarity that researchers have found in the data over the past two years.

    Julian Blanc, a co-author of the study and acting coordinator for MIKE, told Reuters infant mortality was the best barometer for poverty because data for it, based on work by the Center for International Earth Science Information Network, exists at local levels.

    It can therefore be linked to localized incidents of elephant poaching, making it far more useful than other measurements such as per capita GDP, which can give a skewed picture, especially in countries with high levels of inequality.

    Ziama in Guinea, Niassa in Mozambique, and Bangassou in Central African Republic were the three areas covered in the report with the highest rates of infant mortality, ranging from 1,240 to almost 1,400 deaths per 10,000 live births.

    All three areas also had extremely high levels of elephant poaching. In the case of Ziama, its elephant population is small but has been reduced by over half in the past few years.

    The next four areas in the infant mortality rankings were all found in Democratic Republic of Congo.

    The report also found, using Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index, that at the national level “high poaching levels are more prevalent in countries where governance is weaker, and vice versa”.

    Poverty and governance are the “enabling” factors for poaching, with consumer demand the other key link in the chain.

    Poor governance and high poverty levels overlap between countries such as Congo and Central African Republic, which are also areas where local people see little value in elephant populations.

    “In many parts of Africa people living with elephants derive no benefits from that coexistence and only bear costs in terms of crop damage, injury or death,” Blanc said in a telephone interview from his Nairobi base.

    Tropical, land-locked

    Many of these countries - such as Central African Republic - also suffer from the development curses of having tropical climates, which impose the heavy disease burden seen in their infant mortality rates, and being landlocked, which imposes economic costs.

    Still, that does not mean that wildlife in such places could not be utilized in a way that might bring economic benefits. Heavily forested and tropical Gabon, for example, is building a wildlife tourist industry aimed at the more adventurous.

    But elsewhere in central Africa, elephants, a natural resource that could lift rural economies in the form of eco-tourism, or even a regulated ivory trade down the road, are being exterminated, depriving future generations of potential income.

    Such poverty traps serve as a sobering reminder, against the backdrop of the “Africa Rising” narrative, that much of the world's poorest continent is still being excluded from the region's dynamic economic growth and investment story.

    You May Like

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Who Are US Allies in Fight Against Islamic State?

    There is little but opportunism keeping coalition together analysts warn — SDFs Arab militias are not united even among themselves, frequently squabble and don’t share Kurds' vision for post-Assad Syria

    Learning Foreign Language Helps US Soldiers Bridge Culture Gap

    Effective interaction with local populations part of everyday curriculum at Monterey, California, Defense Language Institute

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora