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IUCN report: Wild elephants are endangered

Status: 25.03.2021 3:15 p.m.

The population of African wild elephants has declined by 86 percent in the last 30 years. That is why the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has been placed on the Red List of Endangered Species.

Hunting and habitat loss have brought one species of elephant to the brink of extinction in Africa. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has placed the African wild elephant in the “Red Hazard” category of the new Red List of Threatened Species, the highest of the three endangered species. The somewhat common savannah elephant is in the second highest category and is most endangered. So far, the species has been considered one and listed as “endangered” in the third category.

Overall, the IUCN in Geneva reports that the number of African wild elephants has declined by 86 percent in 30 years and that of savannah by 60 percent in 50 years. Hunting has increased sharply since 2008. In 2016, the organization estimated the number of specimens of the two organisms at approximately 415,000.

Good for environment and climate

“African elephants play an important role in the ecosystem,” said IUCN Director-General Bruno Oberley. “We urgently need to stop hunting and ensure that adequate suitable habitats are protected.” There are examples of successful security measures that need to be expanded. The IUCN names Gabon and Congo, for example, have confirmed the number of wild elephants. The number of savannah elephants is also increasing in the Guangxi-Zambezi Transformer Protection Area on the Zambezi River between Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

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The Environmental Foundation WWF points out the important role that elephants play in climate protection in Germany. “As forest gardeners, wild elephants play an important role in maintaining the rainforests, especially in the Congo Basin, and thus for climate protection,” said Arnold Gonke, head of the Department of Conservation. “Without wild elephants, the composition of the forest would change significantly, saving less carbon.”

This is the last one of a kind: a wild wild elephant bull.

Picture: Andrea K. Turgalo / IUCN / DBA

Ivory trade is a central issue

The ivory trade is growing as new figures from the organization Transportation show on behalf of the Washington Convention on the Protection of Wildlife (CITES). In 2019, 42.5 tonnes were seized.

“The ivory trade is firmly in the hands of organized criminal networks worldwide,” said Daniela Fryer, of the Pro Wildlife Animal Welfare Organization. “The majority of the perpetrators are still escaping without being prosecuted.” It is estimated that up to 30,000 elephants are hunted each year. “Only about ten percent of the smuggled ivory has been found,” Fryer said.

Exacerbates corona complications

The corona crisis is having catastrophic consequences on animal and nature conservation. The IUCN recently announced that measures against poachers in more than half of protected areas in Africa should be reduced or stopped. There are reasons such as the economic downturn and the lack of money for countries due to the lack of tourists.

Besides poaching and habitat loss, another threat to elephants lurks in South Africa. In the world-famous Okavango Delta, a natural paradise in Botswana, more than 300 elephants died in 2020, possibly due to cyanobacterial infections also known as blue-green algae. This year again 39 bodies were found there. In neighboring Zimbabwe, more than 30 elephants died of the disease last year.

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Tens of thousands of species are threatened

The IUCN provides a red list, which has been placed several times a year since 1964. There are now more than 134,000 animal and plant species, of which nearly 37,500 are endangered.