Poachers in Africa Killed 100,000 Elephants in Just Three Years

Pachyderm populations have plunged nearly 70 percent in one Central African reserve.

(Photo: Bob Smith/Getty Images)

Aug 21, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Kristina Bravo is Assistant Editor at TakePart.

For years we’ve been hearing reports of elephant poaching in Africa, but a new study has put a number on the problem. Between 2010 and 2012, poachers slaughtered 100,000 pachyderms across the continent.

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first to scientifically measure the number of elephants killed across Africa. Researchers counted killings in a Kenyan park and used other data to estimate deaths in other regions. They found that the percentage of elephants killed illegally has increased from 25 percent of all pachyderm deaths 10 years ago to about 65 percent today.

Poaching happens at the fastest rate in Central Africa, followed closely by East Africa. In Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve, the elephant population dropped from 40,000 to 13,000 in the last three years.

Here’s the good news: Thanks to a strict anti-poaching task force, Botswana’s elephant population has been stable and is perhaps even growing. In Kenya, where poaching is rampant, the Chinese embassy donated $20,000 worth of anti-poaching equipment, including telescopes and track poachers, to conservancy groups this month. Ambassador Liu Xianfa said that China, where a rising middle class continues to fuel the black market for ivory, is increasing its efforts to educate people about the illegal trade.

According to the Animal Welfare Institute, a poacher can earn $36 per pound of ivory, or $800 for a typical elephant that carries 22 pounds of ivory. (In Kenya, the average monthly wage is $76.) It then makes its way to China, where people will pay $1,500 per pound to turn the ivory into chopsticks, ornaments, and jewelry.

“I assure you that more action will follow, as will support to fulfill our promise,” Liu said in a ceremony in which he handed the anti-poaching equipment to four wildlife conservancy groups, according to The Associated Press. “We firmly believe that, through joint efforts, the drive of combating wildlife crimes will achieve success.”