Africa could lose 20% of its elephant population within a decade, conservation groups warned this week as governments met in Botswana to discuss measures to curb poaching.Opening the African Elephant Summit in Gaborone this week, President Ian Khama said:“Wildlife crime has become a modern day international problem, usually driven by people that have never lived close to the natural resources that they are exploiting. Today it is the fourth most lucrative transnational crime behind trafficking of illegal drugs, humans and arms.”An estimated 22 000 elephants were illegally killed across the continent last year, as poaching reached “unacceptably elevated levels,”according to a report by CITES, TRAFFIC and IUCN.“If poaching rates are sustained at current levels, Africa is likely to lose a fifth of its elephants in the next ten years.”The study was released as experts and ministers met to look at ways to stamp out the slaughter, fuelled by a growing demand for ivory in Asia.
The meeting adopted 13 “urgent” steps to stem the tide of illegal elephant killings. These include classification of trafficking in ivory as a serious crime.An agreement was reached on Wednesday by key African elephant range states including Gabon, Kenya, Niger and Zambia and ivory transit states Vietnam, Philippines and Malaysia, and ivory destination states, including China and Thailand, said the IUCN in a statement. Tanzania, where many elephants are poached, was not included in the list.Prevention would be tackled through better arming of national protection agencies and discouraging demand in destination countries.The meeting also recommended adequate securing of government and privately-held ivory stockpiles.There are about half a million elephants left in Africa compared with 1.2 million in 1980 and 10 million in 1900.
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