You’re so money supermarket recently featured an advert with a guy driving an elephant. He is epic. In a sense it’s a good advert, we all find it funny how the elephant shakes its ass to the music. That’s probably what the marketing team at money supermarket thought. It looks cool and is kind of amusing.
I wonder if they though what I thought? That one day computer generated versions and fossils in a museum will be all that is left of the African elephants. The advert does not show, that possibly within the next fifty years, the elephant will become nothing more than a CGI creation like the dinosaurs.
Let me explain…
African elephants have been classed by the IUCN ( international Union for Conservation of Nature ) , on the threat list, as vulnerable.This might not mean much to most people, as unfortunately, the majority of people only start to pay attention when the words ” critically endangered ” appear. A species being classed as ” vulnerable ” officially means that they face a high risk of extinction in the wild, and therefore should not be ignored.
Look what happened to the western black rhino, which in 2011, was declared extinct.
The rest of the species teetering on the brink under the label of “critically endangered.”
As for the elephants, I will let the numbers explain.
As recently as the 1930’s and 1940’s which is about 70 – 80 years ago, the population of African elephants was estimated to be around 3 – 5 million. The population was steadily and drastically decreased through hunting and ivory poaching. Between 1980 and 1990, the population was more than halved from 1.3 million to 600,000, with the population in Kenya declining by 85% between 1973 and 1989. The population in Chad declined from 400,000 in 1970 to just 10,000 in 2006; That’s 390,000 elephants in just 36 years, that is over 10,000 each year.
In the past, hunting was a major catalyst in the population decrease of African elephants, with an estimated 100,000 elephants killed each year through sport hunting in the 1980’s
Hunting, unfortunately, is still practised by rich, ignorant businessmen and women around the world to this day.
Ivory trading was too becoming a serious factor, and in 1989 the international trade in ivory was banned to fight the massive illegal trade.
Though hunting is still practised, the majority of the population decrease is nowadays mostly contributed to the once again growing demand for ivory, particularly from Asia. In 2012, the New York Times reported a large surge in Ivory poaching, with about 70% of the product flowing to China.
“Over 80% of all raw ivory traded, comes from poached elephants.”
The increased price of ivory has seen a rise in the ivory trade with the highest levels of illicit trade for over 16 years having been seen in 2011 and remaining at unacceptably elevated levels.
In Cameroon, a mass poaching incident lasting a few days in February 2012, saw 650 elephants poached for their tusks.
Thereafter, in early March 2013 in Chad, 86 elephants – which included 33 pregnant females – were killed in what was labelled ” a potentially devastating blow to one of central Africa’s last elephant populations.
By 2014 it was estimated that central Africa will be home to just 50,000 elephants.
The gestation period of a female elephant is 22 months. Therefore, as they start reproducing around 10 – 12 years of age, and live to the age of 50, a fertile female may produce up to seven offspring.
Males on the other hand only start to compete for the females after they ( the males ) are over the age of twenty-five. Wild males begin breeding in their thirties, when they are of a size and weight that is competitive with other males. Most observed matings are by males over 35 years of age.
Therefore the classification of vulnerable is highly appropriate, and the fate of the species is in jeopardy if circumstances continue unchanged. Males are being killed before they can reproduce. Females are being killed during pregnancy if not before, and calves end up orphaned after the slaughter of their mothers and left, if not themselves slaughtered as well, to inevitably die days later.
One of the most upsetting facts is that humans are killing elephants directly and indirectly. With our ever increasing populations and demand for for land, we are encroaching into elephant lands, making their territories smaller and cutting off their migration routes. Farms and plantations are trampled and destroyed by elephants passing through, and as a result the elephant becomes the farmers number one enemy. The farmers which don’t take matters into their own hands through trapping and shooting, are more than happy to allow the poachers to rid them of what they view as a pest and threat to their livelihood.
Whilst National wildlife reserves may be a haven for some of the population, it is not a solution. Any given area of land can only sustain a certain number of African elephants whilst allowing it to remain ecologically sound. It is for this reason, that in order to protect the rest of the population and the other wildlife in the reserve, that excess numbers must be culled. It is an ironic twist of fate that makes the plight of the African elephant all the more dire.
I have seen this magnificent creatures in person, not at a zoo, but wild African elephants in National Wildlife Reserves. I can therefore attest that to see these incredible giants and to hear them is an awe inspiring experience. I had the pleasure to witness a few members of a herd enjoying a drink together at the local watering hole…
In 2013, conservatives estimated that 23,000 African elephants were killed by poachers and that less than 20%of the African elephant population is under formal protection. The total population now lies at just over 400,000, and if things do not change, the future does not look bright for these majestic animals.
However there are people that are making a difference, and we can help them. There is still hope, though action needs to be taken sooner rather than later.
Let’s save these iconic giants, because I cannot imagine a world where the only place I can see an elephant, is on a TV screen.
Let us not allow the sun to set on the African elephant.