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AFRICAN FOREST ELEPHANTS NOW CRITICALLY ENDANGERED

Context:

African Forest elephant has been declared as ‘critically endangered’ and the African Savanna (or bush) elephant has been declared as ‘endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Both species were earlier listed as ‘vulnerable’.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Conservation of Ecology, Protected species)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About conservation of African elephants
  2. African Forest Elephant
  3. African Savanna Elephant
  4. Differences between Asian and African elephants?
  5. International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

About conservation of African elephants

  • Forest elephants had stabilised in well-managed conservation areas in Gabon and the Republic of the Congo.
  • The numbers of Savanna elephants had also been stable or growing for decades, especially in the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, which harboured the largest subpopulation of this species on the continent.
  • However, both species suffered sharp declines since 2008 due to a significant increase in poaching that peaked in 2011 but continues to threaten populations. The ongoing conversion of their habitats, primarily to agricultural and other land uses, is another significant threat
  • IUCN assessment also pointed out that there had been successful conservation programmes that had led to the stabilisation of the elephant populations in a few areas.
  • Poaching for ivory has been the scourge of African elephants over the past several decades. As both males and females possess tusks, the impact of ivory poaching is especially severe.
  • While savanna elephant populations can bounce back given sufficient protection, the forest elephant is likely to recover much more slowly.

African Forest Elephant

  • African forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) are now Critically Endangered according to IUCN and their population dropped by 86% in the last 31 years.
  • African Forest elephants occur in the tropical forests of Central Africa and in a range of habitats in West Africa.
  • The forest elephant, which has a more restricted natural distribution, is thought to occupy only a quarter of its historic range today, with the largest remaining populations found in Gabon and the Republic of the Congo.
  • The habitat of the forest elephant rarely overlaps with the range of the savanna elephant.
  • African forest elephants are a bit smaller than their savanna counterpart.

African Savanna Elephant

  • African savanna elephants (Loxodonta Africana) are now Endangered according to IUCN and their population dropped by 60% in the last 50 years.
  • The Savanna elephant prefers open country and is found in a variety of habitats in sub-Saharan Africa including grasslands and deserts.
  • The Savanna elephant populations can bounce back given sufficient protection.

Differences between Asian and African elephants?

  • Asian elephants are smaller than their African cousins, and their ears are smaller compared to the large fan-shaped ears of the African species.
  • Only some male Asian elephants have tusks, while both male and female African elephants grow tusks.
  • African elephants have rounded heads, while Asian elephants have a twin-domed head.

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

  • Founded in 1948, today IUCN the largest professional global conservation network.
  • IUCN has more than 1,200 member organizations including 200+ government and 900+ non-government organizations and is headquartered in Gland, near Geneva.
  • IUCN is funded by governments, bilateral and multilateral agencies, foundations, member organisations and corporations.

Functions of IUCN:

  1. Science: the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™.
  2. Action: hundreds of conservation projects all over the world.
  3. Influence: through the collective strength of more than 1,200 government and non-governmental Member organizations.

-Source: Down to Earth Magazine

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October 2022
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