This Is the Most Heartbreaking News About Animals You’ll Read Today

Researchers counted Africa’s elephants, and the news is not good.

Imago via ZUMA Press

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


Africa’s iconic savanna elephants are disappearing—and poaching is to blame. That’s the takeaway of the Great Elephant Census, an elephant count conducted by researchers from an array of conservation and zoological groups in Africa.

“If we can’t save the African elephant, what is the hope of conserving the rest of Africa’s wildlife?”

Between 2007 and 2014, Africa’s elephant population dwindled by 30 percent, down to a grand total of just over 352,000 elephants. According to the World Wildlife Fund, there were as many as 3-5 million elephants in the early twentieth century.

Over the past 5-10 years, because of mounting demand for ivory, largely in China, elephant poaching has increased dramatically, especially in eastern and western Africa.

Some of the highest carcass ratios—a metric that compares [PDF] the number of dead elephants to the total number of live and dead elephants in a given area—were found in Cameroon, Mozambique, Tanzania and Angola, which had not been surveyed before.

Other reasons linked to the decline are human-elephant conflict, habitat loss and fragmentation, and the isolation of populations.

The report raises concerns about how the animals are protected. “The clear implication is that many reserves are failing to adequately shield elephants from poaching and human-elephant conflict,” said the study.

While these revelations may bring more attention to poaching and other issues affecting savanna elephants, the problems will likely persist. Poachers are paid handsomely—as much as $1,500 per pound of ivory on the black market—and they don’t serve much time in jail.

“If we can’t save the African elephant, what is the hope of conserving the rest of Africa’s wildlife?” said Mike Chase, GEC principal investigator, in a statement.

A few breathtaking photos of these disappearing majestic creatures:

Imago via ZUMA Press

Imago via ZUMA Press

Imago via ZUMA Press
 

Imago via ZUMA Press

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate