LIBREVILLE, GABON (February 6, 2013): The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) announced today that a national park, once home to Africa's largest forest elephant population, has lost a staggering 11,100 individuals due to poaching for the ivory trade.
The shocking figures come from Gabon's Minkebe Park, where recent surveys of areas within the park revealed that two thirds of its elephants have vanished since 2004. The majority of these losses have probably taken place in the last five years.
Gabon contains over half of Africa's forest elephants, with a population estimated at over 40,000.
The surveys were conducted by WCS, WWF, and Gabon's National Parks Agency Agence Nationale des parcs Nationaux (ANPN). The survey was funded by ANPN, the CITES MIKE (Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants) Program, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
"This sad news from Gabon confirms that without a global commitment, great elephant populations will soon become a thing of the past," said WCS President and CEO Cristin Samper. "We believe that elephants can still be saved but only if nations greatly increase their efforts to stop poaching while eliminating the illegal ivory trade through better enforcement and reduced demand."
Until recently, Gabon's elephant herds were believed to be less impacted by poaching than in other parts of Africa, where according to the Born Free Foundation, an estimated 31,800 individuals were lost to poaching last year. However, Gabon's National Park Agency reported an uptick of poaching in recent years, including the 2011 slaughter of 27 elephants in a protected area just outside of the capitol.
In June 2011, a significant increase in human activity in the Minkebe National Park and its buffer zone was detected. A small camp of 300 artisanal gold miners had expanded to over 5,000 miners, poachers, and arms and drugs dealers. Park authorities estimated that 50-100 elephants
|Contact: Stephen Sautner|
Wildlife Conservation Society