Corruption and Chinese demand are the biggest influences on elephant poaching in Africa

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Ivory elephant

Corruption amongst African officials and ivory prices dictated by Chinese demand are probably the biggest influences on the conservation of the African elephant. A further factor is poverty which drives poaching. China is the world’s largest market for illegal ivory. One area of corruption is African courts which allow smugglers and poachers to go free. African officials involved in conservation and in local authorities also act corruptly in undermining conservation while promoting the destruction of the species.

Ivory elephant
Ivory elephant. Photo in public domain

“We are seeing a downturn in poaching, which is positive news, but it is still above what we think is sustainable. Elephant populations are declining. The poaching rates seem to respond primarily to ivory prices in south-east Asia and we can’t hope to succeed without tackling demand in that region.”

Colin Beale of the University of York’s Dept. of Biology.

China is making an effort to turn the tide by recruiting celebrities to endorse conservation messages. This has had an effect in falling demand from wealthy Chinese. The Times newspaper reports that there has been a 60% reduction in poaching of African elephants since 2011, based upon a study.

Notwithstanding this good news, the elephant is on the brink of extinction in the wild in Africa. The study concluded that the “death rate” of elephants in 2017 was 4%, while in 2011 it was 11%. I will take this to mean that in 2017 4% of the elephant population was poached and killed for ivory.

In 2090 it’s believed that there are about 350,000 elephants living on the African continent. Each year it is believed that poachers kill 12,500 elephants.

In conjunction with China’s efforts referred to above, there has been a more vigourous approach by armed rangers to guard elephant populations. Despite these best efforts, which need to be improved, we are told that at the current decline in the elephant population, they are in danger of being almost wiped out from the continent. It is projected that they may survive in only small, fragmented pockets.

There is a need to improve the standard of living of people who live in Africa because as mentioned poverty is one driving force behind some African’s desire to poach to make a living.

“Ensuring a future with elephants will require stronger laws and enforcement efforts and community engagement; however, as long as demand exists, supply will quench it.”

Lisa Rolls Hagelberg – head of wildlife communication and ambassador relations at the UN environment programme.

The Bengal tiger in India suffers very similar pressures due to very similar circumstances only it is not ivory that the Chinese are after it is the bones etc., the body parts for TCM – traditional Chinese medicine. The same goes for the rhino in Africa.