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By: Mike Rooney

Counting Elephants

American Wildlife Foundation

Elephants at Amboseli National Park
Elephants at Amboseli national park against Mount Kilimanjaro
Image: Amoghavarsha/WikiMedia Commons)

Count sheep. That’s the advice given to people having trouble falling asleep—a clear indication that most don’t consider counting animals an exciting task. Yet the counting of animals is crucial to conservation efforts. Wildlife censuses help gauge population patterns and distributions across habitats and time.

This is especially critical for Africa’s elephants, given the extent of the illegal wildlife trafficking crisis. According to a recent study, which involved data collected by numerous conservation organizations, including AWF, 65 percent of all forest elephants had been killed for their ivory over the past decade.

A 2014 elephant census conducted in Selous Game Reserve in southern Tanzania, which boasts among the largest elephant populations in East Africa, found that the reserve’s population had fallen an astounding 67 percent since 2010. The census, coordinated by two AWF partners and conducted at the behest of the Tanzanian government, estimated that only 13,683 elephants remain in the ecosystem—compared to 110,000 only 30 years ago.

“There was a time when the Selous ecosystem looked safe from poaching, because of the sheer number of elephants in that expansive landscape. But in conservation, you can never be safe,” observed Philip Muruthi, AWF’s senior director of conservation science.

Read more: https://www.awf.org/blog/counting-all-elephants

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