African elephants are under threat of extinction because they are killed for their precious husks which have ivory. From the time of European explorers and trophy hunters during the 1900 up to today, the market for illegal trade in ivory has been increasing due to high demand by China and United States which is the leading perpetrators of illicit trade as ivory is used to make expensive jewelry and arm bangles.
East Africa and southern African states appear to be the major regions with large populations of African elephants hence countries like Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana and South Africa have become major targets for elephant poachers killing several of them daily.
There is less than 500,000 African elephants left in the wild due to rampant poaching that swept across the African continent during the 1980’s resulting into 62% decline of elephant’s population despite the 1989 ban on illegal ivory trade brought forward by the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES).
CITES and the 2013 elephant summit in Botswana continue to warn that if nothing is done to stop illegal trade of ivory, African elephants would easily become extinct by the end of 21st century.
Uganda and her neighbor the Democratic Republic of Congo appears to be signatory members of CITES, the leading international body against illegal trade of ivory and other endangered species of wildlife. Nevertheless these two countries have been spots for African elephant poachers. In addition these two have of recent been pinned as transitory routes for illegal ivory traders.
The history of both countries was characterized by civil conflicts during the 1980’s which resulted into massive killing of elephants in national parks due to weak law enforcement and conservation policies at the time.
However, shortly Uganda stabilized with increased political security and conservation and is now among the safe countries in Africa unfortunately it was never the case for DRC as fighting between several rebel groups continued to pose a threat to African elephants.
Uganda lost thousands of African elephants from Queen Elizabeth national park during the 1980’s guerrilla war which claimed an estimated number of about 2000 African elephants including those killed from other National parks of Uganda.
Fortunately Uganda has learnt from her past and conservation has been increased with the effective management by Uganda Wildlife Authority which manages all national parks and wildlife reserves. According to the recent survey done by the wildlife conservation society, elephants in Uganda mainly in Queen Elizabeth national park have increased from 800 to more than 5,000 over the past 3 decades.
Although that seems to be good news, the politically unstable Uganda’s neighbor the DRC continues to face rampant killing of African elephants in Garamba national park a UNESCO world heritage site.
In 2015, 68 elephants were reported dead by the Congolese Wildlife Authority. Similar incidents carried out by armed poachers had earlier killed other 30 elephants from the same national park which is dramatically reducing African elephants in DRC at an unprecedented rate.
DRC continues to aid armed poachers known to be part of Lord’s resistance army and other rebels operating in north and eastern parts of DRC, the same poachers snitch into the neighboring Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth national park.
In 2012 the Uganda Wildlife Authority lost 25 African elephants, in the following year five elephants were also reported to have been killed by unknown poachers across Ugandan national parks where elephants live. The Uganda conservation foundation claims that some elephants run away from rebel activities in DRC and cross over to Uganda and in the midst of their migration they are easily killed along the way which explains why DRC and Uganda must collaborate to stop poaching of elephants which has tarnished their image among the international media.
Researched information from the African elephant specialist group indicates that although countries like Uganda have strengthened conservation and protection of elephants, across other African states poaching of elephants is still a challenge and it’s like a drop of water in an ocean when thousands of elephants are being killed every single day overshadowing the increase in elephant numbers in Uganda.
Conservation organizations from around the world are looking for ways that could help to put an end to human – elephant conflicts but it still remains a big challenge where African states and some individuals are corrupt conniving with illegal Asian traders. However, important measures being highlighted to reduce poaching of African elephants include helping local communities to alleviate poverty, grounding elephant protection policies in African states with effective law enforcement and training of rangers and equipping them with latest technologies such as tracking devices, surveillance camera installation in national parks, expanding habitat ranges for elephants and increasing education awareness among the people could help save African elephants as the world elephant day approaches this year August to remind the world about the importance of African elephants.
Elephants play a vital role in maintenance of the ecosystems by their big size, they help to regulate plants which other wildlife depend on as well hence losing elephants in Uganda and DRC and other African states where elephant poaching is rampant, would led to detrimental effects on the environment.
Elephant conservation is very important as it improves tourism in the country. It is very disappoint going on a wildlife Safari and not see elephants which are amazing to see due to their body size. In Uganda, Gorilla tracking tours in Bwindi Impenetrable is always combined with wildlife tours in Queen Elizabeth National park which has a highest concentration of Elephants in all national parks in Uganda.
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