Jumbo Elephants may disappear from Tanzania within seven years if current poaching trends continue, Sabahi news service reports.
The Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute counted 109,000 elephants in 2009. In 2012, the number had sunk below 70,000. This is due to a surge in poaching. Elephant ivory commands high prices on the international black market. If current trends continue, the elephants could be entirely wiped out within seven years.
The decline in elephants is a step backwards. In the 1980s, during a period of heavy poaching and lax enforcement, the population dipped as low as 55,000. Thanks to better legal enforcement and protection, elephants made a major recovery. Now all that hard work may be ruined.
This comes after sobering news that rhinos are now extinct In Mozambique’s Limpopo National Park. These localized extinctions make it hard for species to maintain a viable population. Groups of animals get smaller and further separated, reducing the available breeding stock.
More detail on the elephant situation in Tanzania can be found in this government report.
[Photo courtesy Muhammad Mahdi Karim]
Five rhino poachers were killed in two shootouts with South African police this week, the BBC reports. Three were killed in Kruger National Park, one of the most popular game reserves for safaris in South Africa. Two others were killed near the border with Mozambique. Poachers often cross borders in an attempt to evade the law.
Two rhino horns were found among the poachers’ belongings.
Poaching is a serious problem in Africa, with South African rhinos, especially white rhinos, a favored target. Last year 333 rhinos were killed in South Africa. Police have been clamping down on poachers but their activities continue and the heavily armed criminals often get into gunfights with police and park wardens. African nations are having mixed results fighting poachers. Some countries have managed to reduce illegal hunting, but other nations are still struggling with the problem.
[This beautiful shot of two white rhinos is courtesy JasonBechtel via Gadling’s flickr pool. It was taken in Ohio, of all places! At least these beautiful animals are safe there.]
One of the main reasons adventure travelers head to Africa is for the wildlife. Sadly, that wildlife is in danger of disappearing thanks to illegal poaching. Big game such as rhinos and elephants can bring in large sums of money for their tusks, hide, and meat.
Namibia has been one country that has been successful in the fight against poaching in the face of a continent-wide rise in illegal hunting. Neighboring South Africa lost 150 rhinos to illegal poaching. On the other hand, Zimbabwe has seen a drop in incidents, despite reports that safari operators and hunters are supplying poachers with weapons. The poachers are local hunters with local knowledge of the terrain and animals, who then sell the animals to big game hunters and safari operators who have foreign connections.
Namibia has been clamping down on poachers by increasing staff and national parks and setting up communication systems to rapidly report any incidents. So far it’s worked, with no rise in deaths among the country’s elephant and rhino population.
[Photo courtesy user Ikiwaner via Wikimedia Commons]
It sounds like a throwback to a colonial age of pith helmets and native porters, but big game hunting is still popular in South Africa. In fact, it’s on the rise.
A recent study by a South African professor says that some 200,000 South Africans engage in the sport, plus an unknown number of tourists. This translates to millions of dollars in revenue every year and thousands of jobs. There are also knock-on bonuses such as increased hotel and retail revenue.
The study urges the Department of Tourism to “promote the industry aggressively” as a means for rural development.
The most popular animal to hunt is springbok, pictured here, followed by impala, blesbok, kudu and warthog. Much of the hunting is actually for meat, but trophy hunting is also in demand. Classic big game such as leopard and elephant, so popular with the pith helmet crowd, are now illegal to hunt. Some of these animals are endangered and all have much smaller populations than in the past, thanks to human encroachment into their lands and, you guessed it, too much hunting. South Africa now has rules in place to hopefully stop this from happening with animals such as the impala and springbok.
Photo courtesy Bourlingueurs.com.