KENYA - An estimated 100,000 elephants in Africa have been killed by poachers from 2010-12, according to a new peer reviewed study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The killings have increased as a result of the growing demand for ivory sold on the black-market in China and other Asian countries.
The study was conducted in Samburu, Kenya, and closely monitored the elephant population in that region and then used data from other sites to draw conclusions about elephant deaths across the continent.
Counting wildlife can be difficult, but the study collected data from the past 16 years that included births, deaths and whether they were natural or from poachers. The information concluded that between 2010 and 2012 the number of elephants poached amounted to about 100,000.
It was found that 65 percent of elephant deaths come from illegal killings. That is a 40 percent increase from a decade ago. At the rate elephants are being poached, it will lead to an extinction of the species, the study concludes.
According to ABC News, George Wittemyer of Colorado State University, the study's lead author, said that with China's population at 1.3 billion and the demand for ivory being so high, the black market price of ivory is up. This results in more impoverished people in Africa "willing to take the criminal risk on and kill elephants. The causation in my mind is clear."
According to MSN News, "The current demand for ivory is unsustainable. That is our overarching conclusion. It must come down. Otherwise the elephants will continue to decrease," said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants.
The study also says that the elephant population now suffers from few prime-aged males, strongly skewed sex ratios and social disruptions such as collapsed families and an increased amount of orphans.
Although the amount of elephant deaths is up, some areas of Africa have healthier elephant populations than others. According to ABC News, the highest death rate is in central and east Africa. Tanzania's population dropped drastically from 40,000 to 13,000 over the past three years. However, Botswana elephants are doing well with their population growing.
Though the number of poached elephants is discouraging, Wittemyer still shows optimism. He mentions that if countries are willing to participate in wildlife security that population numbers will remain steady and elephants can survive.
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