Africa’s elephants are facing an immediate threat to survival due to the high levels of poaching for their ivory.
The latest report released by the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) shows that over 20,000 African elephants were poached across the continent in 2013 and the number of seizures in Africa exceeded those made in Asia.
Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania accounted for 80 percent of those seizures made in Africa.
According to John E. Scanlon, Secretary-General of CITES, although the illegal elephant killing is leveling off, poaching levels remain alarmingly high and continue to far exceed the natural elephant population growth rates.
“Africa’s elephants continue to face an immediate threat to their survival from high-levels of poaching for their ivory and with over 20,000 elephants illegally killed last year the situation remains dire,” Scanlon said.
“ Due to the collective efforts of so many, we also see some encouraging signals, but experience shows that poaching trends can shift dramatically and quickly, especially when transnational organized crime is involved,” he added.
Southern Africa continues to hold the lion’s share of Africa’s elephants, holding close to 55 percent of the known elephants on the continent.
Eastern Africa holds 28 percent and Central Africa 16 percent. In West Africa, less than 2 percent of the continent’s known elephants are spread over 13 countries.
The three key factors linked to higher poaching levels in Africa are poverty, weak governance and demand for illegal ivory in consuming nations.
The poverty is measured by infant mortality rates and weak governance is measured by law enforcement capacity and corruption levels.
Overall poaching numbers were lower in 2013 than in 2012 and 2011 – but they continue to exceed 20,000. The report warns that poaching levels will lead to continuing declines in the African elephant population.