Commentary: The Plight Of The Elephant
This article describes the International Elephant Foundation’s efforts to protect and conserve the African and Asian Elephants. The African Elephant population has fallen from 1.6 million to fewer than 500,000 in the past 25 years, while Asian Elephants are ten times more endangered than their African counterparts.
The International Elephant Foundation (IEF) selected 15 projects for 2008, directed primarily at habitat protection, anti-poaching, eco-tourism, environmental education, veterinary medicine, and the reduction of human-animal conflict to conserve and protect both African and Asian elephants.
Based on information from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, “the African Elephant population has fallen from 1.6 million to less than 500,000 in the past 25 years, and it is estimated that only 30,000 Asian elephants are left in the wild. Poaching is most commonly blamed for this decline. However, while Asian Elephants are 10 times more endangered then their African relatives, the majority of the trophy ivory tusks that poachers go after are found on African Elephants. This is because female Asian elephants are virtually tuskless, as are some males. On Asian males that do have tusks, they are often significantly smaller than those on African Elephants. It’s not surprising, then, that most poaching takes place in Africa, while the most critical populations are found in Asia, so there must be something else going on.”
The largest problems for elephants include deforestation, disease, poaching, and human-elephant conflict. Elephants exist in the lowest numbers frequently within countries with unstable governments, as conservation laws are difficult to maintain and enforce in these places.