Elephant numbers in Central Africa have halved in the last five years

Elephant numbers in areas surveyed by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in Central Africa halved between 2006 and 2011, hinting at the carnage wrought by the surging commercial ivory trade and demonstrating a need to boost protection efforts, said the Bronx Zoo-based conservation group.

The number of elephants counted across 10,400 square miles of forest (27,000 sq km) around Republic of Congo’s Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park fell from 13,000 individuals to 6,300 during the 5-year period. But the population within the park and an adjacent FSC-certified logging concession that is patrolled by rangers has remained stable, according to WCS.

“The forces of illegal wildlife trade are decimating forest elephants in the Republic of Congo and across Central Africa,” said Paul Telfer, Director of WCS’s Republic of Congo Program, in a statement. “The remaining populations of forest elephants in protected areas such as Nouabalé-Ndoki are becoming the last strongholds for the entire species.”

WCS says the findings underscore the need to support vigilance in the region.

“Pressure from elephant poachers and ivory traffickers has become huge, and the elephants’ future, both in the park and in the surrounding area, now hangs in the balance,” said James Deutsch, Executive Director of WCS’s Africa Programs. “We need to redouble our efforts.”

Elephant poaching is driven mostly by demand for ivory in Asian markets. China and Vietnam are major destinations for elephant tusks, although considerable volumes of ivory end up in stores in the United States and Europe.

African forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) are considered a separate species from the larger and better-known savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana). African forest elephants are also found in other Congo basin countries, including Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo (DRC), and Central African Republic.

Original Story: Mongabay