Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Elephants to Big to Disappear Without Being Noticed
It is so much easier to observe the disappearance of creatures than in the past for at least two reasons.
The first, of course, is technology. Even the dwindling of the population of the smallest creature can be detected.
Secondly, the species now disappearing include huge animals like the african elephant, both the bush's that weight ranges to 13,000 pounds and the forest that grows to almost half that size.
The main reason for this environmental crime is poaching for their coveted ivory. World-wide efforts to outlaw its sale are not working with the lure of money in desperately poor African nations.
The Guardian calls them “our living dinosaurs….”
It quoted scientists saying, "They are our living dinosaurs, the romance of a bygone era, and if we can't conserve the African elephants, I'm fearful to think about the fate of rest of Africa's wildlife,” say Mike Chase and Larry Patterson.
Chase is the founder of Elephants without Borders and Patterson is with the Department of Animal Science at Cornell.
Chase adds: "I don't think anybody in the world has seen the number of dead elephants that I've seen over the last two years," he says.
Chase organized the first Africa-wide census of elephants.
“Before the GEC, total elephant numbers were largely guesswork. But over the past two years, 90 scientists and 286 crew have taken to the air above 18 African countries, flying the equivalent of the distance to the moon -- and a quarter of the way back -- in almost 10,000 hours.”
A continent that once is believed to have been home to 20 million elephants now has only 1.3 million.
Making matters worse for smaller elephants is “their slow reproduction rate.
Unlike the bigger, more abundant savannah elephants – which start breeding from the age of 12 – female forest elephants begin breeding only at 23. They then only give birth only once every five to six years,” reports New Scientist. The socalled African Forest Elephant could be gone in 10 years.
“In 2013 the estimated remaining population was 100,000,” says study co-author Peter Wrege at the Elephant Listening Project, part of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Ithaca, New York. “But poaching rates suggest that 12,000 to 15,000 forest elephants are being killed every year. At this rate, forest elephants will be essentially extinct in one decade – by 2023. This should worry everybody.”
The forest elephant has its own built-in birth control and will reproduce more slowly as it fears it is threatened.
More difficult to determine is what effect the decline of the elephant population with have on flora and fauna affected by their presence on the landscape.
Poaching has also affected the male population of Indian elephants, which totals only about 20,000 and exists in several Asian countries.