Uncertain future for African elephants as poaching doubles and illegal ivory trade tripled

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Photo: IRIN/Amantha Perera

Populations of elephants in Africa continue to be under severe threat as the illegal trade in ivory grows – with double the numbers of elephants killed and triple the amounts of ivory seized, over the last decade.

A new report entitled "Elephants in the Dust – The African Elephant Crisis", says increasing poaching levels, as well as loss of habitat are threatening the survival of African elephant populations in Central Africa as well as previously secure populations in West, Southern and Eastern Africa.

The report says that systematic monitoring of large-scale seizures of ivory destined for Asia is indicative of the involvement of criminal networks, which are increasingly active and entrenched in the trafficking of ivory between Africa and Asia.

The report is produced by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network (TRAFFIC).

According to the report, at sites monitored through the CITES-led Monitoring Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) programme alone, an estimated 17,000 elephants were illegally killed in 2011. Initial data from 2012 show that the situation did not improve. However, overall figures may be much higher.

These threats compound the most important long-term threat to the species' survival – increasing loss of habitat as a result of rapid human population growth and large-scale land conversion for agriculture, which provides for international markets.

Achim Steiner, UN Under Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, said, "surge in the killing of elephants in Africa and the illegal taking of other listed species globally, threatens not only wildlife populations, but the livelihoods of millions who depend on tourism for a living and the lives of those wardens and wildlife staff who are attempting to stem the illegal tide".

Donn Bobb, United Nations.

Duration: 1’49″

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