Originally Posted by mimo
Apologies if my numbers are out of date. Where did your number of under "1000 left in the Universe" come from?
The World Wildlife fund estimates "elephant populations in southern Africa are large and expanding, with some 300,000 elephants now roaming across the sub-region." This does not include West or East African populations.
The Elephant Database keeps track of elephant populations world-wide. The 2012 Continental Totals ("2013 AFRICA" analysis) lists, if I'm reading the charts correctly, 61,835 individuals in the "definite" ground count
category and 419,120 from all other means of determining population. Most of the data is drawn up in close collaboration with the IUCN SSC African Elephant Specialist Group.
I've seen other reports and data that suggest that the one of the major threats to elephant populations is "conflict" between elephants and local peoples. Nowhere is there any evidence that the controlled harvesting of dead, dying, or diseased individuals for the hides has any impact on elephant populations. In fact, the income derived from such harvesting is a significant percentage of the needed funding to keep preserves and parks...where elephants are protected...open. Without such protection, without the funding that comes from the harvesting, elephant populations would be in far more precarious straits than they are.
And while this is very nearly the definition of "sustainable resource," it is worth noting that it wouldn't be happening at all...and elephants might very well be extinct already...if it weren't for the intervention of international agencies and the establishment of protected areas and protected populations.
Land use pressure, habitat loss, human elephant conflict, and illegal killing for both meat and ivory continue to pose threats to the long-term survival of elephant populations across Africa. Recent research also points to climate change and the increasing frequency of droughts as a major threat to elephant populations in the Sudano-Sahelian region (Bouché, 2012). Human-elephant conflict in particular continues to pose a serious challenge across much of the range. Although a number of innovative methods are emerging to add to the toolbox to help mitigate this conflict (Graham et al., 2011; King, 2011), long-term land use planning and cooperative management of elephant populations with local communities are required to provide sustainable solutions.
The rise in levels of illegal killing and the dynamics surrounding it are worrying, not only for small and fragmented elephant populations that could face extirpation, but also for previously secure large populations. Conflict situations are known to deteriorate further the poor protection afforded to elephants (Beyers et al., 2011) and this is of concern in particular for areas with emerging and ongoing instability. At a minimum, armed conflict hampers monitoring activities. Reports of poisoning as a method of illegally killing elephants have emerged from a number of sites in Southern and Eastern Africa, and further investigation of this dynamic is necessary.
The most recent analysis from the Elephant Trade Information System notes that illicit trade in ivory has greatly increased, reaching the highest level in at least the last 16 years. The frequency of large-scale ivory seizures (more than 800 kg) has also increased, indicating a highly-organized illegal ivory supply chain.
--Edited by DWFII - 11/25/13 at 9:34am