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Elephant population increases in Kenya despite poaching menace

Kenya is one of only four African countries that have seen an increase in the population of elephants in the past decade.

Save for Kenya, Malawi, Uganda and South Africa, which recorded slight increase, Africa, in general, had a 30 per cent decline in savannah elephants due to poaching.

The Great Elephant Census Report released on Wednesday after three years of counting indicated that the population decreased by nearly a third between 2007 and 2014. This translates to the loss of 144,000 heads of elephants.

The worrying report, which shows that Africa now has only 352,271 elephants, says that across East Africa, Mozambique and Tanzania have experienced large declines in populations.

“Though the numbers of elephants are still relatively high in these two countries, poaching has had major impacts on populations. Elephant populations elsewhere in eastern Africa, including Kenya, Uganda, and Malawi, show more positive trends recently,” the report shows.

Wildlife conservationist and WildlifeDirect CEO Paula Kahumbu said the slight increase in Kenya was because the country has invested heavily in anti-poaching measures, which include enforcement, prosecution and punishment.

“The country took a good step in collaborating with non-governmental organisations that aim at conserving wildlife and this has really also created an impact,” Dr Kahumbu said.

LARGEST NUMBERS

She said despite the impressive slight increase, Africa would continue to experience dwindling numbers of elephants if countries like Japan, China and Thailand would continue having a ready market for ivory.

The report released on Wednesday and which surveyed 15 out of the 18 countries that still have viable elephant populations, shows that Tanzania, Cameroon and Angola had the largest decreases in elephant populations although Tanzania still has the third largest numbers (on 42,871), with Kenya in fourth place on 26,000.

The current rate of decline is eight per cent per year, primarily due to poaching. The rate of decline accelerated from 2007 to 2014, when 352,271 elephants were counted in the 18 countries surveyed.

“This was an extraordinary collaboration across borders, cultures and jurisdictions. We completed a successful survey of massive scale, and what we learned is deeply disturbing,” said philanthropist and Vulcan founder Paul Allen.

Ms Heather Sohl, chief adviser on wildlife at the WWF-UK, called for a renewed effect to deal with poaching.

“This census has confirmed what we all feared – that elephant numbers are continuing to decline rapidly in many parts of Africa as a result of poaching and human impact on their habitat and survival of some savannah elephant populations is threatened,” she said.