Tag Archives: elephant

How Elephant Societies are Surviving the Poaching Crisis

As many as 100,000 elephants fell victim to poaching in just two years, between 2010 and 2012.

In the elephant poaching world, poachers target males first because they have the largest tusks and then they move on to females. You’d think this latter move would break up elephant societies, as they are matriarchal, but that isn’t the case.

So how do elephant societies survive such an aggressive onslaught?

A new study found that the elephants’ extended families are stepping up to lead the societies when matriarchs were killed. The elephants’ social structure is maintained because the middle-aged females – who were now the oldest in the group – took over leadership roles. These females had enough social knowledge to recreate patterns they learned from the elders.

The study reviewed 16 years of data on elephants from Kenya’s Samburu National Reserve, tracking which individual elephants associated themselves with others. The elephants were identified by ear shape, body markings, or other unique characteristics.

Photo by Brad / CC BY-ND 2.0
Photo by Brad / CC BY-ND 2.0

Doctoral student at Colorado State University who coauthored the study, Shifra Goldenberg, says:

“It shows that elephants are socially resilient. In a highly social species, they depend on social bonds, so the fact that we haven’t seen social collapse is good news.”

Still, there are other unknown implications to losing the oldest females, including its effects on elephant calf survival, communication patterns and long-term knowledge of the area and range.

Featured image by Vaughan Leiberum / CC BY 2.0

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Poachers Have Killed Half of the Elephants In Mozambique In Just 5 Years

A government survey showed that over the past five years, the number of elephants in Mozambique has dropped from 20,000 to 10,300 due to poaching.

That’s a 48% decline in just five years. And 95% of those elephant deaths occurred in remote northern Mozambique, which has the Niassa National Reserve, reducing the region’s population from 15,400 to 6,100.

The drastic decline is due to the illegal wildlife trade and a lack of governance. Many of the poachers came to Mozambique from Tanzania, where the market was bleak from its decimated elephant population.

Director of WCS in Mozambique, whose organization manages the Niassa Reserve, Alastair Nelson says:

“The major issue is one of governance. The north has always been a remote and poorly governed area, with an underlying level of corruption. Some district police and border guards are being paid off, some even rent out their own firearms.”

Photo by O.Taillon / CC BY-ND 2.0
Photo by O.Taillon / CC BY-ND 2.0

Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, has been slow to start fighting the poaching problem. Before June 2014, poachers were simply fined for illegal possession of a weapon. But after international pressure, the country adopted a new law criminalizing the killing of protected animals.

In May, Mozambique police completed the country’s biggest-ever search and acquisition of illegal wildlife products. They seized 1.3 tons of elephant ivory and rhino horn – the outcome of killing about 200 animals.

Sadly, an estimated 30,000 elephants in Africa are killed illegally for the ivory trade each year. There are around 470,000 wild elephants left in Africa, according to a survey by Elephants Without Borders. A century ago, there were several million.

 
 
Featured image by Leandro Neumann Ciuffo / CC BY 2.0

Elephant Herd at Sunset

Photo by meaduva / CC BY-ND 2.0

Elephant Herd at Sunset

Herds at Mt. Kilimanjaro

Herds of animals in front of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Amboseli National Park, Kenya, East Africa
Photo by Diana Robinson / CC BY-ND 2.0

Herds of animals in front of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Amboseli National Park, Kenya, East Africa