Over the last several months there has been an increase in information and action with regard to ivory poaching in Africa. Thanks to the Great Elephant Census, a program that counted elephants in 18 countries over two years, we have a much deeper understanding of the impact that ivory poaching is having on elephant populations. Conservationist and philanthropist Paul Allen (also a supporter of the Grumeti Fund), along with Elephants Without Borders led this crucial initiative, which has shown that elephant populations are declining. The published results show that Africa’s elephant population has suffered a devastating blow, losing 30% of the species from 2007 – 2014. Tanzania in particular has endured a massive loss of elephants, due to rampant poaching. However, there are some areas within the country where populations have increased, including Grumeti. On the heels of these results was an IUCN meeting where it was agreed that there should be a domestic ban on the sale of ivory (this agreement was not legally binding). The census and the IUCN agreement then set the tone for the CITES World Wildlife Conference, which concluded on October 4th, where laws on the ivory trade were reviewed. The amount of people, countries, policies and NGO’s involved in securing a promising future for elephant (and many other species) is vast and it is crucial that all of the players are working together. With new laws in place to close domestic ivory markets and to increase the protection of elephants, one can hope that the trend of the last several years will be turned.
From a protected area management perspective the ivory poaching crisis has really challenged the conservation community. Many organizations have had to change the way that they practice conservation. At Grumeti we have made the transition from sending scouts out on patrol with sticks to now having a more para-military like presence, where scouts carry firearms. We are also focusing on projects that will enhance our intelligence gathering capabilities. Two of these projects which we are in the process of implementing are a Detection Dog program and a Domain Awareness System. They will enable our anti-poaching team to effectively and efficiently respond to threats on elephants and any wildlife in our concession.
We look forward to sharing more on these programs in the near future!
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