New York: Elephant populations in Africa has declined by as much as 30% between 2007 and 2014, the results of a pan-African survey of savanna elephants have shown.
The findings of the three-year Great Elephant Census managed by Elephants Without Borders (EWB) confirms substantial declines in elephant numbers over just the last decade.
“The results of the GEC show the necessity of action to end the African elephants’ downward trajectory by preventing poaching and protecting habitat,” said Michael Chase, EWB Director and the Principle Investigator on the project.
The ambitious project to count all of Africa’s savannah elephants from the air has completed 18 country surveys with two countries still to be completed, organisers said.
South Sudan and the Central African Republic are anticipated to be flown by the end of 2016 depending on safety conditions and data reliability.
For savannah elephant populations in 15 GEC countries for which repeat counts were available, populations declined by 30%, or 144,000 animals, between 2007 and 2014, the investigators said.
The Pan-African survey showed the estimated savannah elephant population to be 352,271 within the 18 countries surveyed to-date, representing at least 93% of savannah elephants in these countries.
The researchers reported that 84% of the population surveyed was sighted in legally protected areas compared to 16% in unprotected areas.
However, large numbers of carcasses were observed in many protected areas indicating that elephants are struggling both within and outside of parks.
The scientific report of the GEC findings, published in the open access journal PeerJ revealed that the current rate of species decline is eight per cent per year, primarily due to poaching.
The team used the most accurate, up-to-date counting and statistical methods to analyse data, accurately determining the number and distribution of the great majority of African savanna elephants and this now provides a baseline on a continental scale for future surveys and trend analyses, that wildlife ecologists will be able to use to coordinate conservation efforts.
Overall, 90 scientists, six non-governmental organization partners, and two advisory partners collaborated in the work.