By Naftali Mwaura, Xinhua
NAIROBI: The survival of African forest elephants is at stake amid mounting threats linked to climate change, habitat loss, poaching and conflict with local communities, ministers said at a virtual briefing organized by international conservation lobby Elephant Protective Initiative on Wednesday.
Sharon Ikeazor, the Nigerian minister of State for Environment, said that robust interventions were required to help save the remaining population of African forest elephants that are part of the continent’s heritage.
“Drastic actions are required to salvage the African forest elephant that is facing many threats like habitat loss, attack by diseases, illegal hunting and pressure linked to growth of human population,” said Ikeazor.
She said that expanding acreage of protected areas, enhanced surveillance, community engagement and enforcement of laws is key to enhancing the survival of African forest elephants.
The Geneva-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2021 declared African forest elephants as critically endangered citing their poaching for ivory and rapid loss of their natural habitat.
Native to the central and western African region, the forest elephant is shorter, has slower reproductive rate compared to its savannah counterpart that roams large swathe of east and southern Africa.
According to Nairobi-based conservation lobby African Wildlife Foundation, more than 60 percent of the iconic herbivore’s population has been poached in the last decade.
Lee White, minister of Forests, Oceans, Environment and Climate Change in Gabon said that habitat degradation combined with poaching, conflicts and climatic shocks had escalated the threat to survival of the African forest elephants.
He called for targeted interventions including expanding forest cover, improved land use practices and incentivizing local communities to protect the iconic mammal and halt further decline in its population.
According to White, some of the African elephant forest protection initiatives that have worked includes erecting electric fences around their habitats, retraining and equipping rangers with anti-poaching tools.
Jules Doret Ndongo, minister of Forestry and Wildlife in Cameroon stressed that protecting the African forest elephant is key to sustaining ecosystem balance and foreign exchange earnings through tourism.