Big-time elephant poaching on the way

19 October 2015 - 09:50 By MATTHEW SAVIDES


Elephants are moving towards the top of the poachers' hit list - the number shot has increased in the past two years. The number of elephants killed is still small compared to that of rhinos but it could indicate a trend.SA National Parks (SANParks) said in May last year that an elephant killed in Kruger National Park was the "first poaching in 10 years" - but nine others have been killed in the park since.It is estimated that as many as 35,000 elephants are killed every year in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Benin, Tanzania, Zambia and Kenya. S outhern nations such as Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Namibia, have also been hard hit.Environmental Affairs spokesman Albie Modise said the threat to South Africa's elephant population was "real", even if not necessarily immediate."The possibility of [large scale] poaching moving into South Africa is real," he said.SANParks spokesman Isaac Phaahla shared the sentiment."There have always been concerns around elephant poaching. There have been reports about the widespread slaughter of these animals in other parts of Africa and once those [populations] have been depleted the most obvious target will be Kruger's elephants," said Phaahla.Kruger's 19500km2 of fenced park is home to an elephant population of about 17000.According to Yuan Liu, communications officer of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), elephant poaching in Africa reached a peak in 2011 and has since stabilised, albeit at "unsustainably high levels". Over time, he said, poaching had moved further south, towards South Africa."As poaching increased in the mid-2000s, parts of eastern and southern Africa began to be more seriously affected," said Liu.Wildlife Conservation Society senior vice president Mary Dixon said low prices for ivory, compared to rhino horn, made it less attractive for poachers operating in South Africa.

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