05 Mar 2013:
African Forest Elephant
Populations Fell 62 Percent in a Decade
Populations of forest elephants in central Africa plummeted by more than 60 percent from 2002 to 2011
, with dwindling habitat and an acceleration in poaching driving the elephants toward extinction, according to a new study. An international team of 60 scientists found that while elephants historically
ranged across a 772,000-square-mile region in Cameroon, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon and the Republic of Congo, they now exist in just 25 percent of that area, said John Hart, scientific director for the Lukuru Foundation and co-author of the study published in the journal PLoS ONE
. The decade-long survey, which involved the work of many local conservation staff members who walked more than 8,000 miles conducting censuses, is the largest ever conducted on forest elephants. According to the survey, the remaining 100,000 forest elephants are increasingly scarce in regions with high human populations, high infrastructure density, heavy poaching, and weak governance. The report suggests that strong political action to curb the illegal trade in ivory is critical to prevent the extinction of the forest elephant. “Although the forest cover remains, it is empty of elephants, demonstrating that this is not a habitat degradation issue,” said Hart. “This is almost entirely due to poaching.”
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