By Stuart Winter
PUBLISHED: 16:18, Thu, Apr 20, 2017 | UPDATED: 16:35, Thu, Apr 20, 2017
GETTYThe plight of the Africaâs vanishing elephants has become a General Election issue
One of the world’s leading conservation organisations says the next Government must make banning ivory a priority to save the iconic creatures from poaching.
The WWF made its plea to British politicians in the wake of a shocking new report that estimates that Africa supports only a quarter of the number of elephants that could actually survive across its great wildernesses.
Experts modelling population densities are also warning that a third of elephant refuges have fewer than five per cent of the animals they should be protecting – with “pervasive poaching” to blame.
Reacting to the study from the Conservation Ecology Research Unit (CERU) at the University of Pretoria, the WWF says introducing an ban on the legal UK ivory trade should be one of the first moves of the next Government.
Heather Sohl, WWF-UK’s chief advisor on wildlife, said: “An African elephant is killed every 25 minutes, fuelled by the global demand for ivory. Even the animals living in areas which should be protected are still suffering at the hands of poachers.
GETTYYesterday it was revealed the 730,000 are missing
“We must see a united approach worldwide to tackle the poaching, trafficking, corruption and demand. There has been encouraging global progress made in recent months but to turn the tide we need urgent action at a larger scale.
An African elephant is killed every 25 minutes
“With London hosting the Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference in 2018, whoever forms the next UK Government must prioritise a ban in the legal UK ivory trade to show the global leadership necessary to help make this conference truly successful.”
Earlier this week, the WWF revealed that almost half of all World Heritage Sites designated as vital for nature are threatened by the illegal wildlife trade. Up to 40 per cent of all African elephants survive at World Heritage Sites.
GETTYAn African elephant is killed every 25 minutes, fuelled by the global demand for ivory
The WWF says there has been “monumental progress” to reduce the global ivory demand and reduce poaching, with China announcing a domestic ban by the end of this year, the USA introducing a near-total ban and France strengthening its regulations on legal trade. It wants the UK top close “antique” ivory markets.
The disparity between the number of elephants that could survive across Africa and the reality that only around 350,000 are still roaming free has been borne out by the CERU study published in PLOS ONE, which estimated the number that should be present in 73 protected areas spanning 21 African countries.Mon, July 25, 2016
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Using remote sensing of key elephant resources – vegetation and water – as well as poaching statistics along with the largest population database for any mammal species, researchers were able to model the densities at which elephant populations should stabilise.
Announcing the findings, lead author of the study, Ashley Robson, said: “In the past, we’ve had relatively good estimates of how many elephants there are and how many are poached. But now, we’ve determined how many elephants there should be in the first place.
GETTYThe WWF made its plea to British politicians in the wake of the shocking new report
“While the magnitude of loss due to poaching is devastating – 730 000 elephants are missing across the 73 protected areas assessed – I don’t see our work as more doom and gloom.
“On the contrary, we provide ecologically meaningful goals for elephant conservationists to work toward. It’s a positive step for elephants.”