Nairobi, Kenya (PressExposure) June 30, 2009 -- Researchers at the Washington University recently warned that African elephants are being pushed to extinction and could be extinct by 2020. According to Samuel Wasser, one of the researchers, the elephant death rate from poaching was currently 8 per cent annually, higher than the 7.4 per cent rate which led to the international ivory trade ban in 1989.
Cognizant that elephants are vital to the long-term survival of the ecosystems in which they live, Karl-Heinz Straus, Executive Director for Kenya One Tours is calling upon governments and conservationists to take urgent measures to save the mammals from extinction.
"Elephants play an important role in the forest and savannah ecosystems in which they live. Many plant species are dependent on passing through an elephant's digestive tract before they can germinate and should the animal get extinct the entire planet would be in trouble," says Karl-Heinz.
African governments as well as conservation groups, observes Karl-Heinz, must address key issues that threaten African elephants including strengthening activities against poachers and the illegal ivory trade; slowing the loss of natural habitat and reducing conflict between human and elephant populations.
"The capacity of local wildlife authorities to conserve and manage elephants must also be enhanced," Karl-Heinz adds.
Although poaching of elephants for their ivory has declined since the 1989 worldwide ivory ban, it remains a widespread problem in west and central Africa. Large quantities of African ivory are still finding their way in to illegal markets in Africa and beyond in places such as Asia.
The African Elephant is one of the most endangered animals in Africa. The population in the 1980s was around 1 million, with around 70,000 elephants being killed a year. The total African elephant population is now less than 470,000.