Elephant poaching surges
But illegal ivory trade appears to have levelled off
A “TROUBLING recent spike” is how a global elephant monitoring system has described the recent upsurge in the poaching of elephants in the Kruger National Park.
The warning is sounded in a new report from Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (Mike), a programme of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites).
While elephant poaching appears to have stabilised, according to the report submitted ahead of the upcoming Cites CoP17 conference to be held in Johannesburg in September, poaching levels remain high in some southern African sites, including the Niassa reserve in Mozambique and the Kruger.
“The elephant population in Kruger is not in decline, but the situation could change if current trends continue... Along with Chobe ( Botswana) and Etosha ( Namibia), Kruger was until recently one of only three sites in Africa where the proportion of illegally killed elephants (PIKE) had been consistently low since the start of the Mike monitoring in the early 2000s.”
Still, southern Africa continued to “stand out” as the sub-region where overall poaching rates had remained consistently the lowest between 2006 and last year, a period marked by a surge in elephant poaching across the continent.
Along with the Mike data, new data from the Elephant Trade Information System reveals that while trading in illegal ivory reached its highest levels in 2012 and 2013, it now appears to have levelled off.
“The sharp upward trends in poaching, which started in 2006, have started to level off with continental levels of illegal killing of elephants stabilising or slightly decreasing. However, the levels of poaching remain far too high to allow elephant populations to recover, with some populations facing risk of local extinction.”
“Unacceptably” high levels of poaching continued to be recorded in Central and West Africa, where “high levels of illegal killing continue”, but had declined in East Africa.
While a study last month ascribed the sharp rise in elephant poaching to Cites’s once-off legal ivory sale in 2007 to Japan and China, the Mike data disputes this. “No evidence was found to suggest that illegal killing of elephants increased or decreased because of the one-off ivory sales or the nine-year moratorium,” its report states.
“If the decisions approving these had any effect on poaching levels, a discontinuity in the continental trend would have been expected, but that effect was not discernible from the available data.
The decisions associated with the sales were spread over time, and the increase in poaching levels had become apparent before the decisions were made.”
Instead, the Mike report insists high poverty levels and countries with poor governance scores “explain most of the spatial variation in PIKE levels”. email@example.com
Elephants roam near Blantyre, Malawi.