Dangers Facing Elephants Today
Elephants face an uncertain future in many parts of the world; their dangers change dependent on the part of the world they live in. For example, in South Africa, their largest hazard is overpopulation; in Asia, the major threat is their loss of habitat because of increasing human populations; in remaining habitats across the globe continued poaching for ivory dwindle the already scarce global elephant populations.
While other parts of the world are experiencing near-extinction elephant populations, parts of southern Africa, particularly Botswana, are coping with an overpopulation of them. There are multiple reasons for these conditions, including incredible efforts including large protected national park areas, game reserves, and wildlife management areas. The benefits of the current structure to local communities are immense, but proposals to place the African Elephant on Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) threaten to affect this flourishing population with enormously negative consequences.
Estimations of the Asian elephant population place 38,000 to 51,000 wild elephants in existence; in comparison, there are more than 600,000 African elephants. This incredible disparity in populations is partly due to the loss of habitat for Asian elephants because of the rising human population invading their habitats. Roughly 20% of the world’s population lives inside or nearby the habitat range of the Asian elephant, and obliteration of their habitat is occurring because of warfare, agricultural advances, the increased need for human housing, and logging requirements. In addition to the loss of habitat for these elephants, the food in the remaining ranges is growing scarcer because there are too many elephants for the ecosystem to sustain. The result is that elephants begin to search outside of their natural systems for food, turning to the fields of farmers for sustenance.
The Rest of the Globe
In areas of the world other than Asia and South Africa, the poaching—illegal hunting—of elephants remains the largest reason behind dwindling global elephant populations. While some countries have stiff penalties for poaching elephants—in China, for example, the penalty for poaching an elephant is death—others have little or no consequences for the act. Between 1979 and 1989, a mere ten years, a global demand for ivory caused worldwide elephant populations to drop to near-extinction levels. CITES helped to repair some of the damage caused by these killings by placing a ban on international ivory sales. This may prove to be inadequate though, because of the increase in ivory demand after the 2008 sales of stockpiled ivory from South Africa to Japan and China to satiate these countries’ growing middle-class’ desire for luxury goods such as ivory.
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