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Are elephants in Africa on the verge of extinction

By Correspondent

Africa’s elephants have reached a tipping point: more are being killed each year than are being born, a study suggests.

Researchers believe that since 2010 an average of nearly 35,000 elephants have been killed annually on the continent.
They warn that if the rate of poaching continues, the animals could be wiped out in 100 years.
The work is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Lead author George Wittemyer, from Colorado State University, said: “We are shredding the fabric of elephant society and exterminating populations across the continent.”
Dramatic loss
The illegal trade in elephant tusks has soared in recent years, and a kilogram of ivory is now worth thousands of dollars. Much of the demand has been driven by a rapidly growing market in Asia.
While conservationists have long said the outlook was bleak, this study provides a detailed assessment of the impact this is having on Africa’s elephants.
The researchers have found that between 2010 and 2013, Africa lost an average of 7% of its entire elephant population each year.
Because elephant births boost the population by about 5% annually, this means that overall more of the animals are being killed than are being born.
Julian Blanc, who also worked on the study, from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), said: “If this is sustained, then we will see significant declines over time.
“The other thing to bear in mind is that different areas are affected differently.
“There are still healthy growing populations in parts of Africa, Botswana for example. But in other places the poaching levels are devastatingly high, and that is particularly the case in Central Africa.”
In Central Africa it is estimated that elephant numbers have fallen by about 60% in a decade.
Prof Wittemyer added: “We are talking about the removal of the oldest and biggest elephants.
“That means removal of the primary breeding males and removal of family matriarchs and mothers. This leaves behind orphaned juveniles and broken elephant societies.”
Conservationists said urgent action was needed.
John Scanlon, secretary-general of Cites, said: “The world needs to decide how much further effort it wants to put into the conservation of this magnificent species and, if so, be prepared to mobilise the necessary human and financial resources to deliver – and we are seeing some encouraging signs in this regard.
“In terms of concrete actions, we need to move to focus on the front-line and tackle all links in the illegal ivory trade chain – improve local livelihoods (for those living with elephants), strengthen enforcement and governance and reduce demand for illegal ivory. “
Policeman seized with tusks
Meanwhile, a senior police officer and another suspect were arrested with two elephant’s tusks worth 71,000 U. dollars in Narok, about 100 km southwest of the country’s capital Nairobi.
The Administration Police officer and his suspected accomplice were arrested by Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) rangers at Ilkerin Loita area on the outskirt of world-famous Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Narok County Sunday evening.
Narok North deputy divisional police commander, Paul Cheruiyot, confirmed the officer was in charge of Loita Administration Police in Narok. The officer be arraigned in court once investigations are completed.
Cheruiyot said the two were arrested following a tip-off from members of the public who alerted the KWS officers who later pounced on the suspects.
“When the officers and rangers approached them in a bush, they started engaging in negotiations and immediately arrested them as the senior police officer tried to flee the scene when he noticed the danger,” Cheruiyot said.
He said the officers posed as potential customers before ambushing and arrested them with the 62 kilogrammes of ivory.
He appealed to Kenyans to be vigilant and report those behind poaching activities in the area and help the government’s efforts to reduce the vice in the region.
Cheruiyot said police and KWS have heightened surveillance to nab poachers. The discovery comes as there has been an unprecedented surge in the number of elephants killed by poachers for their ivory in the last few years.
Two weeks ago, KWS officers impounded 84 kg of elephant tusks of estimated value of 96,000 dollars and arrested a suspect.
The nine pieces were recovered from a 43-year-old Daniel Muchemi Karanja at Majengo area in Narok town and believed the ivory originated from Maasai Mara game reserve.
Poached ivory is believed to be exchanged for money, weapons and ammunition to support conflicts in the region.

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