miércoles, 4 de diciembre de 2013

UN reports that 22,000 elephants were poached last year in Africa


Elephants are one of Africa’s critical “keystone” species, and estimates place the total population of elephants around 450,000. The loss of 22,000 mostly adult elephants, or roughly 5%, is critical as elephant young require the care of the parent.

The demand for ivory that fuels the poaching conducted on the continent comes primarily from Asia, and more specifically from wealthy Chinese who pay over $1000 per pound for what is seen as a status symbol.

The poaching trade has advanced beyond automatic weapons and chainsaws in its process to harvest the animals' tusks. In September of this year, cyanide was used to poison the water supply of an area, killing over 300 elephants. This technique is extremely detrimental as it not only poisons the elephants, but any species, including humans, that drink the contaminated water. The poison creates a second and sometimes third layer of victims when scavengers eat the carcasses of animals that were poisoned.

Orphaned elephants don’t typically survive long after the loss of the parent. Organizations such as David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust act as orphanages for young orphaned elephants, who grieve the loss of the family, as shown in the video. The trust is currently assisting more than three dozen orphans in its nursery, at the cost of over $10,000 per year, per orphan.

Even with backing from A-list Hollywood celebrities, such a Kristin Davis, these organizations are still forced to raise funds through charity drives to cover the cost of trying to slow the effect the poachers are having on the environment.

Being a keystone species, the loss of the species would be devastating to Africa as a whole. Elephants have large ranges and spread seeds and germinate trees during their treks. Their size and weight tramples dead trees that are blocking the sunlight from the plant life below. Many of the densely wooded areas in central Africa evolved around the elephant, and without the species to perform its function, would die.

ORIGINAL: Digital Journal
Dec 3, 2013

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