“Elephants for Africa”
Conservation through Research and Education
At EfA, we are dedicated to the conservation of elephants and other wildlife in their natural ecosystems. Preserving natural resources is vital to the continued survival of mankind, in terms of access to food, shelter and livelihoods, but also through the intrinsic value of wild places as part of our natural heritage.
Elephants are ecosystem shapers: by knocking down trees and opening up bushy areas they can increase the amount of grass available to other herbivores in the system. They move across vast distances, using distinct pathways that also offer easy travel routes to other species. Elephants can act as seed dispersers, facilitating the growth of many woody species by depositing seeds in their faeces as they move around the region. They are also hugely iconic, and are used across the world as symbols of wilderness, strength, wisdom and nature. Given all of these factors, conserving elephants and the resources that they require is beneficial to entire ecosystems, as well as to the humans that rely on them.
In 2007, there were an estimated 472 000 elephants in Africa. The population dropped to an estimated 436 000 in 2013, and the rate of decline is increasing at an alarming rate, due to the illegal ivory trade and human wildlife conflict, which have led to an IUCN status of Vulnerable. In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in ivory poaching, and this is reaching a crisis point. Between 2010 and 2013, 60% of the elephants in Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania, were wiped out. On average, in 2013, an elephant was killed every 15 minutes (96 elephants per day). Clearly this situation is not sustainable, and at this rate we could see the annihilation of the African elephant in many countries by 2020.
In addition to the imminent threat of extinction from poaching, 70-85% of the population exists outside of protected areas, alongside humans. Habitat loss and fragmentation, and expanding human settlements, with ensuing competition for resources, are reducing the area of land available to elephants, so that some populations only survive in small numbers surrounded by farm land and human habitations.
At EfA, we are working towards conserving African elephants by carrying out applied research on the little-studied social dynamics of male elephants and their effect on crop-raiding behaviour, and through an extensive education program aimed at local communities. These two focal areas of applied research and education will help to change the attitude of local villagers towards elephants, encouraging them to appreciate the benefits that elephants can bring, while mitigating the damage that they sometimes cause.