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Study documents decimation of critically endangered forest elephant
Date:3/29/2013

African forest elephants are being poached out of existence. A study just published in the online journal PLOS ONE and supported in part by San Diego Zoo Global shows that a staggering 62% of all forest elephants have been killed across their range in central Africa, for their ivory over the past decade. The severe decline indicates what researchers fear is the eminent extinction of this species.

"Saving the species requires a coordinated global effort in the countries where elephants occur, all along the ivory smuggling routes and at the final destination in the Far East. We don't have much time," say Wildlife Conservation Society conservationists Fiona Maisels, PhD, and Samantha Strindberg, PhD, the lead authors.

The studythe largest ever conducted on the African forest elephant includes the work of more than 60 scientists between 2002 and 2011, and an immense effort by national conservation staff who spent a combined 91,600 days surveying elephants in 5 countries (Cameroon, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon and the Republic of Congo), walking over 13,000 kilometers (more than 8,000 miles) and recording over 11,000 elephant dung piles for the analysis.

The paper also shows that almost a third of the land where African forest elephants were able to live 10 years ago has become too dangerous for them. Results show clearly that forest elephants were increasingly uncommon in places with high human density, high infrastructure density such as roads, high hunting intensity, and poor governance as indicated by levels of corruption and absence of law enforcement.

Bethan Morgan, PhD, head of San Diego Zoo Global's Central Africa Program, stressed the importance of this study. "This is the largest collaborative study of its kind across the whole of Central Africa and really highlights the plight of this ecologically important species. Forest elephants are integral to a functioning forest in Afri
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Contact: Christina Simmons
csimmons@sandiegozoo.org
619-685-3291
Zoological Society of San Diego
Source:Eurekalert

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