According to a conservation group, NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Some African elephant herds are adapting to the risk of poaching by moving out of risky areas.
The plight of elephants is a key issue at the meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which begins over the weekend and ends on May 5, October.
Frank Pope, operations manager for Save the Elephants, said radio-tracking data of elephants since 1998 in northern Kenya shows “exquisitely sensitive to the risk they are.”
According to wildlife experts, Africa had 1.3 million elephants in the 1970s, but today there are only 500,000 left.
At the Shaba reserve in northern Kenya, “you can almost define the boundaries of the reserve by where the elephants go,” said Pope. “There’s no fence, no cutting, nothing to mark it visually, but the elephants know, ‘I’m safe here, I’m not safe here. ”
“There is every reason to believe that elephants are voting with their feet and moving from unsafe areas to safe areas,” Pope said.
Saving the Elephants is also active in Virunga National Park in eastern Congo, where numerous armed groups vie to control the region’s vast mineral resources. Some are accused of killing elephants for their tusks. The elephants there clung to the rangers’ posts, Pope said.
The elephant populations hardest hit by poaching are in Tanzania, Gabon, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Mozambique, Republic of Congo, and Congo.
Kenya said it would push for a complete ban on the ivory trade at the CITES meeting. It says the temporary lifting of the ban in 2007 to allow some countries to offload their stockpiles fueled the resurgence of killing elephants to sell their tusks, mainly to China and other Southeast Asian countries.