Africa’s Massive Elephant Population Decline: A Country-by-Country Analysis

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Africa's elephant population has dropped by a staggering 30% since 2007. conducted an in-depth, country-by-country analysis that highlights the substantial differences in this decline in the 10 major safari countries.

Elephant population Tanzania 1995 - 2015

Elephant population Tanzania 1995 - 2015

Tanzania lost 63% of its elephants but Namibia's elephant population showed a 44% increase, an online marketplace for African safari tours, is shining a light on the rapid decline in Africa’s elephant population. A recent aerial survey – the most comprehensive ever undertaken on the continent – revealed that the total African elephant population has fallen by a massive 30% since 2007. Through the compilation of a country-by-country analysis, we sought a better understanding of this worrying phenomenon.

What are the reasons for the decline in elephant population levels, and why is the decline not uniform among the 10 major safari countries? These are the questions tackled by our investigation. Our country-by-country analysis highlights the differences in elephant population decline between countries, and discusses possible influencing factors including human population increases, GDP per capita changes, the size of elephant ranges and the numbers of illegal carcasses found.

Our analysis points to poaching being the main factor in the sharp decline in elephant numbers. However, the reasons behind the drastically different rate of poaching between countries is more difficult to nail down. We assert that the relevant considerations are multifaceted, interrelated, influenced by geography and sometimes shrouded by corruption.

Key results in our country-by-country analysis between 2007 and 2015 include:

  •     The largest decline in elephant population was in Tanzania, where levels have fallen by a staggering 63%, or 86,320 individuals – by far the biggest drop of any country in our analysis
  •     Mozambique had the second-largest decline in its elephant population of almost 34%
  •     Declines of between 8% and 15% were evident in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Kenya
  •     Namibia recorded a significant 44% increase in its elephant population in the same period
  •     There was a considerable rise in illegal elephant carcasses – in the period from 2008 to 2013, Tanzania, Kenya and Mozambique saw an increase of several hundred percent

Population levels of African elephants are dropping rapidly (about 8% annually). The main cause for the decline is without a doubt an increase in poaching. A country-by-country strategy to reverse this dramatic loss in elephant numbers needs to be developed as a matter of urgency. The long-term survival of the iconic African elephant is at stake.

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Jeroen Beekwilder
since: 06/2010
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