By Apolinari Tairo
Published November 3, 2017
Elephant poaching in Africa has declined for a fifth straight year but seizure of illegal ivory continues to hit higher records.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) says seizures of elephant tusks have been reported both inside and outside the continent.
Though global illegal ivory trade has remained relatively stable for six years, CITES reports that 2016 saw a full 40 tonnes of illegal ivory seized, the biggest haul since 1989, as well as the highest-ever number of “large-scale ivory seizures”.
“The overall weight of seized ivory in illegal trade is now nearly three times greater than what was observed in 2007”, CITES says.
That could be a result of increasing vigilance among border guards and ‘scaled up enforcement’, John Scanlon, CITES secretary general, says.
Scanlon also speculates that the prospect of tougher enforcement along with the widening trend of countries moving to ban ivory may have had a ripple effect across the black market.
International syndicates behind poaching and smuggling may be involved in a panic sell-off as they realise that speculating on extinction was a bad bet, with the ever-increasing risk of getting caught, Scanlon says.
Multiple studies from civil society groups have reported a 50 percent drop in ivory prices in recent years, according to CITES. The outlook for elephant populations across Africa is mixed, according to the report.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has previously found that Africa’s elephant numbers fell by 111000 between 2006 and 2015. But according to CITES, the population in Southern Africa and much of East Africa is now either stable or increasing.
Continent-wide, Botswana has the highest number of elephants, while populations in Kenya, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa and Uganda are holding steady or climbing.
Illegal elephant killing remain high in central Africa, home to chronically restive countries like Congo-Kinshasa and Central African Republic, where weak conservation efforts have failed to stem poaching.
The number of elephant carcass recorded by Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) and Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) sites in Tanzania shows a drop by 55 percent in 2016 compared to 2015.
While Tanzania remains the sub-region’s stronghold for elephant populations, eastern Africa sub-region has been badly affected by the surge in poaching over the last ten years, and has experienced an almost 50 percent reduction in elephant population.
Countries in the region have recorded a steady decline in poaching levels since its peak in 2011, and the analysis made from 2016 concludes that overall poaching trends have now dropped to pre-2008 levels.
An eTurbo News article.