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Saving Two of the World’s Most Treasured Species
The African Elephant Conservation Act of 1997
and The Asian Elephant Conservation Act of 1997

November 4, 1997 — Committee on Environment and Public Works, US Senate, Washington DC


Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, I am Ginette Hemley, Director of International Wildlife Policy at World Wildlife Fund. I want to thank the Committee for this opportunity to testify on behalf of WWF and its 1.2 million members in the United States. WWF strongly supports passage of the Asian Elephant Conservation Act of 1997 and reauthorization of the African Elephant Conservation Act, and would like to express appreciation to Senator Jeffords, Congressman Saxton, and other Congressional sponsors for introducing this important legislation.

Few species capture the public’s imagination as do elephants, both African and Asian, and few species present as many conservation challenges. In recent years, the plight of the African elephant has become a prominent issue, as worldwide attention focused on halting the poaching for ivory that reduced the species’ numbers significantly in many parts of Africa in the 1970s and 1980s. The June 1997 biannual CITES conference featured extensive discussion of the African elephant, highlighting the many challenges African nations face in their efforts to secure long-term survival of the species. The meeting concluded with a controversial decision that may allow limited international ivory trade to resume in 18 months if certain conditions are met.

While the global conservation community will be following the CITES African elephant decision closely, attention is also turning to the Asian elephant, whose status in the wild is even more precarious than that of its African counterpart. The combined impact of habitat loss, poaching for ivory, meat, and hides, and increasing conflicts with people threatens the species’ survival in the next century. In fact, with a total wild population of only 35,000 to 50,000, the Asian elephant now numbers less than one tenth of the African elephant. The erosion of its habitat over the past half century also has fragmented remaining wild populations to the point that fewer than ten populations comprising more than 1,000 individuals are left throughout the species range, jeopardizing the species’ long-term viability.

The African and the Asian elephant, and the countries struggling to protect them, urgently need our help. Securing their survival requires stronger protection measures for remaining herds in the countries where the species live, including establishing corridors to link existing forest reserves and allow for natural migration, promoting programs to increase conservation incentives for the people living closest to elephants, stemming the illegal killing for ivory and other parts, and reducing human-elephant conflicts. The African Elephant Conservation Act: A Model Program for International Conservation.

While the ivory trade debate has been the focus of much international attention over the past decade, it is important to recognize that elephant conservation goes well beyond measures to control commerce in ivory. The issue we are discussing here, Mr. Chairman, is international funding for wildlife conservation. To this end, the African Elephant Conservation Act has played a crucial role. The Act established the African Elephant Conservation Fund and authorizes up to $5 million per year for elephant conservation projects. Although the fund has never been appropriated the full amount authorized, it has proven an important instrument for helping African nations in their efforts to rebuild elephant populations hit hardest by poaching as well as for addressing the growing array of elephant conservation and management needs throughout the continent.

To best understand the importance of monies provided from the AECA, one would have to consult with the governments, wildlife officials and experts of the 17 countries which have benefited from its support. WWF has conservation programs or projects in 16 African countries and oversees several projects which have been the direct recipients of African Elephant Conservation Fund support. Based upon WWF’s own field reports and contact with experts across Africa, the fund has been an important source of support for projects that otherwise would have not been possible.

Mr. Chairman, the African Elephant Conservation Fund supports a very modest program $5.4 million has supported about 55 projects in 18 African countries since the Act was first passed in 1988. In WWF’s view, the Fish and Wildlife Service has been both efficient and effective in managing the elephant grants program.

Through many years of developing and managing international conservation programs and projects, we at WWF have learned many important lessons. One is that successful conservation initiatives require commitment and continuity. The African Elephant Conservation Fund has in fact been the only continuous source of new funding for African elephant conservation efforts in the past decade. Unfortunately, funding from other sources has proven erratic. In the immediate aftermath of the 1989 ivory trade ban, when the world was sensitized to the elephant’s dilemma, funding flowed form various bilateral bodies and NGOs to projects in Africa. Since then, however, funding has largely dried up. A 1995 review supported by WWF and the Fish and Wildlife Service, with support from the elephant fund, revealed that many African wildlife departments have suffered severe budget cuts, some on the order of 90 percent or more over four years, as was the case with Tanzania in the early 1990s. This not only underscores a serious trend, but also makes the monies authorized by the AECA even more valuable and needed.

From WWF’s perspective, some of the strengths of African Elephant Conservation grants program include:

Emphasis on small grants. By emphasizing small grants, FWS is able to move monies relatively quickly with minimal bureaucracy, while also ensuring that a wide spectrum of projects is supported. The African elephant inhabits some 35 countries, and conservation needs and capacity vary widely. The FWS has chosen to provide maximum reasonable flexibility by keeping grants small, while maintaining a broad focus to ensure funding for meritorious projects throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

On-the-ground focus. Virtually all monies coming from the fund go directly to the field where needs are greatest; just three percent goes for administration. Moreover, the Fish and Wildlife Service has been responsive to emerging needs, as witnessed in 1993 when an anthrax outbreak threatened Namibia’s elephant population. Emergency assistance was provided from the African elephant fund, and helped head off a potential catastrophe.

Balanced set of projects. In the beginning, the African elephant fund supported mostly anti-poaching projects, as these were the immediate priority. Since then, we are encouraged that, while grants are still targeted at clear and identifiable needs, the fund supports not only anti-poaching but many other activities, such as elephant population research and censuses, efforts to mitigate elephant/human conflicts, investigations of the ivory trade and cataloging ivory stockpiles, elephant translocations, and identifying new techniques for elephant management.

Cooperation with range states. All FWS projects receive approval from the host- country government before proceeding. We have found that there is a very clear process and commitment to consultation and, where possible, collaboration with African governments.

Matching funds. Since the elephant grants program was initiated in 1990, more than $8.6 million in matching contributions has been spent on the various projects supported – a match ratio greater than 3 :2. In addition, the fund has played a catalytic role in larger initiatives, such as in the Central African Republic’s Dzanga Sangha Reserve. In a major effort to protect important wildlife habitat and biodiversity by working with surrounding communities to link conservation with development needs, African elephant funds are used to support three teams of game scouts that patrol the reserve and combat poaching. In partnership with WWF and others, the U.S. government has been able to play a focused role in the conservation of this biologically important area that is important for forest elephants as well as for many other unique species.

U.S. leadership. Last but not least, the AECA has allowed the U.S. to put its money where its mouth is and set an example for other countries to follow. I would like to emphasize the importance of the fact that FWS support has not been curtailed once the poaching crisis abated. It is only through such continuing support that the long-term survival of African elephants will be realized.

The list of specific initiatives supported by the African Elephant Conservation Act is impressive and I would encourage members to review it. (The list of WWF projects funded under this Act is attached to this statement.) These projects have provided critical seed money to new elephant conservation initiatives in Africa, provided supplemental funds for existing projects with needs that could not be met from other sources, and helped build conservation infrastructure within elephant range states. With projects receiving matching support from organizations such as WWF, Safari Club International, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and others, the African Elephant Conservation Fund has clearly multiplied its conservation benefits substantially.

WWF believes that the positive results of the projects supported by the African Elephant Conservation Fund are the most important signs of the strength of the Act. They have allowed the U.S. to play a lead role where it really counts – funding initiatives in range countries to help ensure the survival of this threatened species in the wild.

The African Elephant Conservation Act has clearly established a successful model program for international wildlife conservation. However, it is sometimes tempting to assume that once the immediate problem is addressed, the problem is solved. Securing the future of Africa’s wildlife requires a long-term commitment. Therefore, the continuing Congressional support for this program will be critical to the long-term viability of many elephant conservation initiatives. WWF urges Congress to maintain the strong support it has shown to date.

Urgent Conservation Needs of the Asian Elephant

The Asian elephant, which has shared a special bond with people for centuries, now faces an uncertain future. Reduced to fewer than 50,000 in the wild, the species has suffered from habitat loss, capture of elephants for domestication, and poaching for ivory and meat. Dedicated conservation efforts, backed by adequate financial support, are needed to stem these threats and ensure the long-term conservation of the species.

Addressing the broad and complex needs associated with successful conservation of the Asian elephant requires the kind of financial and technical assistance from the international conservation community that the Asian Elephant Conservation Act would provide. Carefully targeted, the resources this legislation could offer would have an immediate positive impact. The conservation benefits would be far-reaching not only for Asia’s elephants, but also for the many other species that share the Asian elephant’s range and the human communities that have co-existed with this species for so long.

Perhaps no other wild animal has had such a close relationship with people. In Asia, the unique relationship between people and elephants runs deep and dates back as far as 4,000 years, when elephants were first captured and trained as draft animals and for use in religious ceremonies and warfare. Its cultural contributions are especially noteworthy. Ancient Hindu scriptures frequently refer to elephants, the elephant-headed god Ganesha is revered throughout India, and the white elephant has special religious significance for Buddhists throughout Asia.

In addition to remaining wild populations there also are approximately 16,000 domesticated elephants in Asia. For years, Asian elephants have been important economically, especially in forestry operations. Timber extraction using elephants has less impact on surrounding forests during selective logging than less precise mechanical methods that damage large areas, disrupting ecological processes such as nutrient cycling and forest regeneration, and leaving tracts of bare soil which wash into rivers. Today, only in Burma are wild elephants still captured and trained for use in logging operations. Elsewhere throughout their range, domestic elephants are used for transportation, draft, and tourism, providing a reliable source of income to numerous local communities.

Beyond this unique relationship with human beings, the Asian elephant is a flagship for the conservation of the tropical forest habitats in which it is found. Elephants range over long distances and across a variety of habitats that are home to numerous other wildlife species. As they need very large areas to survive, effective conservation and management of elephants can deliver widespread benefits for other endangered species such as the tiger, rhinoceros, kouprey, clouded leopard, Asiatic wild dog, gaur, Malayan sun bear, Hoolock gibbon, and countless other wildlife sharing its home.

The Asian elephant plays a key role in shaping its environment. Elephants knock down trees while feeding, and these fallen trees then become accessible to smaller herbivores such as blackbuck and sambar that cannot reach the branches of upright trees. Asian elephants disperse the seeds of certain grasses, shrubs and trees, which they deposit in and fertilize with their dung. A multitude of bird species feed on these seeds, as well as the myriad insects that congregate in the droppings. Few species have such a profound effect on the habitat and species around them.

Living in the world’s most densely populated region presents daunting challenges for the Asian elephant. Because elephant herds range over such large areas, protection is more difficult than for many other species. The myriad threats the Asian elephant faces today is reflected in the fact that the species is currently listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and the World Conservation Union’s Red List of Mammals, and also under Appendix I of the CITES. A brief look at remaining numbers of wild Asian elephants in its current range illustrates why the level of concern among conservationists is so high.

Current Range of Wild Asian Elephants

Bhutan 60-150
Burma 5,000-6,000
Cambodia 1,000-2,000
China 250-350
India 20,000-24,000
Indonesia 2,500-4,500
Laos 1,000-3,000
Malaysia 800-1,000
Borneo 500-2,000
Nepal 50-85
Sri Lanka 2,500-3,000
Thailand 1,500-3,000
Vietnam 300-400  

Sources: IUCN’s SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group and WWF offices in Bhutan, Nepal, Vietnam, and India.

The absence of reliable data on population trends, and the difficulty of counting elephants living in dense tropical forests, makes it difficult to precisely quantify the decline in Asian elephant numbers from historical levels. But destruction of habitat has no doubt led to a precipitous decline in elephant populations and a considerable loss of biodiversity throughout their range. The Asian elephant once ranged from modern Iraq and Syria to the Yellow River in China, yet today it is found only in fragmented populations scattered from India to Vietnam, with a tiny besieged population in the extreme southwest of China. Current threats to remaining populations can be summarized as follows:

Habitat loss and fragmentation. Asian elephants inhabit some of the most densely populated areas of the world, and loss of remaining habitat poses a grave threat. Pressures of human population growth are most severe in countries such as Vietnam and India where once extensive forest habitats have contracted dramatically. Encroachment by migrating human populations in countries such as Indonesia pose another threat, and in places like Peninsular Malaysia, large expanses of forest have been cleared for palm oil and rubber plantations and other agricultural activities. Throughout their range, elephants are competing directly with people for the same resources.

Due to the loss and degradation of their habitat, Asian elephant populations have become extremely fragmented. Today there are probably fewer than ten populations with more than 1,000 individuals in any one contiguous area: half of these are found on the Indian subcontinent. The problem is more severe in southeast Asia; only four populations have more than 1,000 elephants, two of which are found in Burma. Small elephant populations isolated in patches of forest in countries such as Vietnam, Peninsular Malaysia, and Cambodia face sudden extirpation from disease outbreaks and natural disasters and risk gradual erosion of genetic health due to inbreeding.

Human-elephant conflicts. Conflict between elephants and people is not a new phenomenon; elephants have been raiding crops since time immemorial. However, the reverence people had for elephants in Asia historically ensured its peaceful coexistence and made them tolerant of the occasional intrusion. In recent times, human settlements have been pushing further and further into elephant habitat, and the incidence of crop-raiding has increased by several orders of magnitude, leading to the destruction of human homes and lives. As people have suffered escalating losses to elephants, their permissiveness has given way to anger and frustration. Every year thousands of hectares of agricultural crops are destroyed by elephants looking for food.

In some countries, governments have taken drastic or expensive measures to minimize conflicts. Malaysia, for example, resorted to large-scale shooting of crop-raiding elephants in the late 1960s, and still translocates problem elephants to protected areas. Other countries, for example Indonesia, rely on short-term remedies such as capturing elephants for domestication. Where no immediate solutions are provided by governments or local authorities for lack of financial resources, people are increasingly taking the law into their own hands by shooting trespassing elephants.

Poaching. Poaching of Asian elephants for ivory, although far less significant than with African elephants, has played a role in reducing numbers in South Asia in the past, and is still a problem in parts of South India, Cambodia, Vietnam, Burma, and Laos. In South Asia, poaching also has altered the ratio of males to females in some areas, causing concern about genetic threats to the population. Skewed sex ratios may cause inbreeding, which can lead to genetic drift, reduce genetic diversity within a population, weaken resistance to epidemics, and compromise overall reproductive success. Poaching of Asian elephants of both sexes for meat, hide, bones and teeth is on the rise. Hide is turned into bags and shoes in Thailand and China, and bones, teeth and other body parts are used in traditional Chinese medicine to cure various ailments. In Vietnam, such poaching is a threat even to the remaining domestic elephants that are allowed to roam freely in forests.

Capture for domestication. Capturing elephants for domestication threatens wild populations, whose numbers already are greatly reduced, and inevitably results in mortalities. In Burma, the country with the highest demand for work elephants, there is some economic logic in capturing adults for use in the timber industry, rather than breeding elephants in captivity. An adult female elephant used for breeding would be unavailable for work curing her two-year pregnancy and for up to two years afterwards, until her calf was weaned. Captive-born elephants then have to be nurtured for a full ten years before they can be employed economically.

In other countries, however, there is less justification for taking wild elephants into captivity. In Indonesia, for instance, large numbers of elephants are being rounded up for domestication as a conflict resolution measure. There is no precedent in Indonesian culture for capturing and training elephants, and it was not until the 1980s that captive elephant managers began to acquire the skills and techniques required for such operations. Since that time over 600 elephants have been taken from the wild, with plans to remove another 600 over the next five years. However, elephants are not used in the logging industry, and only a limited number can be used for other purposes such as tourism. Therefore, the cost of capturing and maintaining these animals seems a misguided use of the meager conservation resources available in this country.

The Asian Elephant Conservation Act

The threat of extinction looms large for the Asian elephant. Conservation efforts by range country governments and international conservation groups have been underway for at least two decades. Unfortunately, economic and political stress has made it difficult for some countries to conserve their wildlife resources or to enforce protection laws effectively. Thus, the species finds itself in a precarious situation. If the Asian elephant is to survive in perpetuity, the international conservation community must work with range countries to meet these challenges head-on.

The conservation assistance provided by the Asian Elephant Conservation Act would be a significant step forward. A serious impediment to sustainable conservation measures for the Asian elephant is financial support. In many countries, national governments have demonstrated political commitment but many activities are sidelined due to insufficient funding. Although the Asian Elephant Conservation Act will not single-handedly save the Asian elephant, it would serve three key purposes. First, the fund would provide a modest but vital source of support for on-the-ground projects to benefit the Asian elephant and its habitat. Second, it would generate matching funds from other sources for priority activities, and as with the African Elephant Conservation Fund, would leverage funding commitments from other governments and organizations. Third, through this bold initiative, the United States sends a strong message to the governments of the range countries that the plight of the Asian elephant is not merely a domestic concern – that even a country with no elephants of its own cares deeply about the survival of this remarkable species.

WWF believes that an investment strategy for conserving the Asian elephant should first concentrate on preserving habitats still large and intact enough to support healthy elephant populations over the long term, and on establishing habitat corridors between these important areas. The Asian Elephant Conservation Act could provide the following benefits directed toward these goals:

Conserving priority habitat areas for Asian elephants across their range. The Asian Elephant Conservation Fund provides a source of support for protection of the remaining elephant populations and their habitat against further loss and degradation. WWF and other international conservation organizations such as the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) have been working to identify priority elephant habitat throughout the species’ remaining range, and to promote establishment and management of corridors and special protected areas. To secure the future of Asian elephants, it is necessary to identify and evaluate the remaining habitat areas where the prognosis for long-term survival is most promising, and then invest conservation resources preferentially in these areas.

WWF is currently supporting an assessment by two of the world’s foremost experts on the Asian elephant, Dr. Raman Sukumar and Dr. Charles Santiapillai, often to 15 habitat areas where Asian elephants have the best chance of long-term survival. This evaluation will be based on population size, habitat integrity, proximity to major human settlements, and the degree of threats such as poaching, logging, and conversion to agriculture. Dr. Sukumar will explain in his testimony how the project will generate a predictive model of where conservation investments would have the best returns for elephants and where land might be acquired for new elephant reserves. I mention this to demonstrate that these high-priority areas, once identified and assessed, would be prime targets for the types of intensive conservation efforts that the Asian Elephant Conservation Fund could support. With a concrete display of US support, Asian range countries could conduct planning and management activities they once could not afford in order to protect elephants and their habitat.

2. Promoting co-existence between people and elephants by developing and implementing sound management practices that would prevent or reduce conflict. The act specifically recognizes the need for programs and projects to address the conflicts between elephants and people that arise from competition for the same habitat. National governments and conservation organizations have conducted surveys and sociological studies in a number of Asian countries to document recent human/elephant conflicts and develop methods to minimize these often deadly encounters. Because elephants are wide-ranging animals, it is not always possible to set aside reserves sufficiently large to prevent their migration beyond borders and keep them segregated from human communities. But compromises are possible that could benefit both sides. For example, buffer zones can be established at the perimeter of protected areas where local people can pursue economic activities that are compatible with elephant conservation. Revenue from ecotourism can be channeled into community development projects such as building hospitals and schools. Local farmers can be compensated for crops lost to raiding elephants. The current resources of international conservation groups are grossly inadequate to address the problem of human/elephant conflict. The Asian Elephant Conservation Fund could provide desperately needed seed money and matching funds, in partnership with local and international groups, to greatly expand the range of activities to mitigate the struggle between people and elephants.

3. Promoting effective law enforcement. WWF is also encouraged that the act points out the need for projects to enhance compliance with CITES and other laws to curb the illegal taking and trade of Asian elephants. While the Asian elephant does not face the same degree of threat from trade as the African elephant, poaching for ivory, skin, and other parts continues, and the recent CITES downlisting of African elephant populations in Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe must be monitored closely to ensure that there is no detrimental impact on Asian elephant populations. The Asian Elephant Conservation Fund would provide an opportunity to create or expand projects to strengthen compliance with CITES and to encourage greater participation by local communities in efforts to protect elephants. It also could support review and strengthening of elephant conservation legislation in the range countries as well as training of law enforcement personnel in methods for investigating and prosecuting violators. Anti-poaching patrol teams that monitor and protect elephants are an indispensable component of any elephant protection effort and are always in short supply. Such teams could be trained, armed and equipped by the fund.

4. Promoting greater scientific understanding of the Asian elephant. As Dr. Sukumar’s work illustrates, there remains a need for greater scientific understanding of the dynamics of Asian elephant populations and their conservation requirements. Using GIS and field surveys, researchers have identified some parameters and basic needs, but again, resources are scarce. This is another area directly addressed in the act where support from the United States could prove immediately beneficial.

Matching Funds. A common theme mentioned throughout has been the act’s role as a catalyst for generating matching contributions to Asian elephant conservation projects. As with the African Elephant Conservation Fund and the more recently established Rhino and Tiger Conservation Fund, we anticipate that a major component of the Asian Elephant Conservation Fund’s success would be its ability to leverage funding from other sources. For example, since 1990, projects supported by the African Elephant Conservation Fund have received close to $6 million in matching contributions, which surpasses the value of grants made directly from the fund. WWF has over 30 years of experience in Asian elephant conservation. Working in nine of the 13 range countries, WWF has invested close to $5 million in recent years in projects to protect Asian elephants and their habitat.

Similarly in Asia, private conservation groups, local governments, and others have many ideas for programs and projects, but cannot bear the costs alone. With seed money or matching grants from the fund, however, many more such initiatives could be brought to life. WWF is encouraged that the legislation promotes such partnerships by giving priority to those projects with the potential for some measure of matching funds. Through the fund’s well-conceived emphasis on small grants, cooperation with range countries and private partners, and a balanced set of priorities for on-the-ground projects, it will clearly have an immediate positive impact.

Before concluding, Mr. Chairman, I would like to raise one cautionary note. WWF strongly believes that funds for an Asian Elephant Conservation Fund should not affect the modest funds currently earmarked for the African Elephant Conservation Fund or the Rhino and Tiger Conservation Fund. Though these species face some common threats, their situations also are distinct, and the ultimate success of efforts to save all of them will require individual attention and investment. Different habitat requirement, different threats to their survival, and different management needs all present a rationale for separate funds dedicated to the conservation of each species. Moreover, concern for the Asian elephant’s survival is heightened in the aftermath of the CITES conference last month, the decisions related to possible future resumption of the ivory trade, and the potential impact on the Asian elephant. We urge the Congress to recognize that, while it has created a powerfully effective model by which the United States can contribute to the conservation of flagship and keystone wildlife species, the conservation benefits to each species will be compromised unless each receives a full and separate appropriation.

Mr. Chairman, once again the international community finds itself in a position where quick action is the only hope for preserving two of the world’s biologically and culturally important species. The Asian Elephant Conservation Act is a critical piece of legislation that WWF believes will greatly benefit this species and countless others which share its habitat. Similarly, the African Elephant Conservation Act, with its proven track record of successful on- the-ground projects, provides key support for countries desperately in need of conservation assistance. WWF salutes the sponsors of this legislation for showing important global leadership for the conservation of the world’s wild elephants. We hope Congress will see the enactment Asian Elephant Conservation Act and reauthorization of the African Elephant Conservation Act as important and practical steps towards securing the future of these magnificent species for generations to come.

Key WWF projects funded by the African Elephant Conservation Act

In Central Africa: Central Africa is home to as many as a half of Africa’s elephants — the forest elephants. The establishment of protected areas in this region lags far behind that of southern and eastern Africa, and heavy poaching continues to pose a serious problem. Funding provided by the FWS has provided the impetus for the establishment of a network of such protected areas, and has leveraged funds from WWF and the Wildlife Conservation Society, as well as generous funding from the Dutch and German governments and the European Union. As a result, notable progress has been made in protecting the elephant populations in the region. WWF has been working in the following areas on the projects described below.

Dzanga-Sangha Dense Forest Special Reserve and Dzanga-Ndoki National Park Central African Republic

The southwestern region of the Central African Republic (CAR) contains the country’s last stronghold of the diverse lowland tropical forest characteristic of central Africa, which is home to a significant population of elephants. The government of CAR and WWF have worked together to create a multiple use reserve (Dzanga-Sangha) and national park (Dzanga- Ndoki) to protect this unique ecosystem. This project seeks to integrate wildlife protection, tourism, research, training, rural development and preservation of the cultural integrity of the BaAka pygmies to conserve this valuable forest. The FWS has supported elephant protection, ecological monitoring and coordination in the Dzanga-Sangha project for nearly 6 years. The anti-poaching operations supported by FWS include a force of 30 guards and have resulted in a marked decrease in poaching and a significant increase in the elephant population, and the recorded density of 3. 18 elephants per square kilometer is one of the highest — if not the highest — ever recorded in the forests of Africa. Over 2,000 individual elephants have been observed at the Dzanga clearing, and only rarely are elephants shot in the park.

A major focus of this project has been the participation of local people; it is one of the first conservation initiatives in the lowland tropical forests of Africa to integrate conservation with the needs of the rural poor. As such, it serves as an important prototype for future community conservation efforts in Central Africa, in which local people realize direct benefits from wildlife conservation.

The objective of the project — to stop large scale poaching of elephants in the core area of Dzanga-Sangha — has clearly been reached. FWS support has made it possible to maintain an active anti-poaching effort that has resulted in an expanding elephant population — a situation that is unique in the central African region. Clearly, the steps that have been taken are working, and need to be continued in order to keep protecting this important elephant population.

Gamba Protected Areas Complex – Petit Loango Reserve Gabon

In April 1990, WWF joined forces with the FWS to provide emergency support for the conservation of elephants and other wildlife in the Petit Loango Game Reserve in Gabon. The reserve has a great diversity of habitats and species, covering 500 square kilometers of seashore, mangrove, swamp and tropical forest. Established in 1966, the reserve is a priority site for elephant conservation.

Recent increases in poaching for meat and ivory pose an immediate and severe threat to elephants in the reserve. Under this project, which is ongoing, an anti-poaching unit has been sent to patrol the area and to meet with rural communities to explain the problems associated with poaching. These measures are designed to give the government the time to develop a long-term conservation program for Petit Loango and adjoining areas in the entire 10,000- square-kilometer Gamba Reserve Complex. Emergency anti-poaching efforts such as those at Petit Loango are buying time — time needed to develop sound, long-term conservation and development programs that demonstrate conservation benefits to communities and, in so doing, enlist the critical support of local people to reduce poaching.

Bangassou elephant censusing project Central African Republic

Little information has been available on the status of elephant populations in the Bangassou forests of southern CAR, but there have been reports of high elephant density and heavy poaching in the area. The purpose of this project — which began 3 years ago, and is near completion — is to estimate the numbers and distribution of elephants and chimpanzees remaining in those forests, to assess the impact of ivory poaching, and to assess the general conservation potential of the forests. Such surveys and analyses are the precursors to establishment of protected areas.

In Southern Africa: Elephant conservation problems in southern Africa are increasingly related to human-elephant conflicts, as elephant populations outgrow the available habitat within protected areas. However, poaching in parks, and disease outbreaks are still of concern and WWF has undertaken projects in the following areas.

Chobe National Park Botswana

WWF assisted the government of Botswana through the preparation of an elephant management plan for Chobe National Park in 1994. Chobe National Park is one of the most significant protected areas in southern Africa. It has more that 400 wildlife species and protects habitat for one of the largest known elephant populations on the continent. Recent elephant population estimates for northern Botswana (with Chobe as an important core area) are 70,000– highlighting the importance of developing a management plan here.

Namibia Desert Elephants: anthrax outbreak

In response to an outbreak of anthrax in Namibia in 1993, approximately 30 desert elephant were inoculated against the disease with emergency funding from FWS. The Namibian elephant population is one of the most mobile on the continent, and it is very easy for an infectious disease like anthrax to wipe out a large population in a very short time. Namibia has approximately 10,000 elephants chat could have been threatened by the disease had it not been caught in time. In addition, elephant populations in neighboring countries also could have been susceptible to the disease.

In addition to protecting the entire elephant population of the region, it was particularly important to protect the small population of approximately 50 desert elephants, as this population is unique in that it has developed characteristics that allow it to survive in the desert.

Anti-poaching unit Zambia

Zambia is home to approximately 25 ,000 elephants, and at the inception of this project in 1991, poaching was a serious threat. Under this project, WWF helped the Zambian government establish an anti-poaching unit, which resulted in a significant breakthrough in the fight against poaching. Several poaching rings were broken and many individuals were arrested and prosecuted.

The international headquarters for the World Wildlife Fund has also received support through the African Elephant Conservation Fund for projects in Cameroon to assess the impact of crop raiding elephants, and elephant related research in Kenya. In addition, the TRAFFIC office in Malawi, a joint program of WWF and IUCN, has received funds to monitor the ivory trade and has undertaken a survey to quantify existing ivory stockpiles. We would be pleased to provide the Subcommittee the details of these projects upon request.

The Future

Priorities for future WWF projects for which we will seek funding under the African Elephant Conservation Fund will focus on surveys of elephant populations and establishment of additional protected areas for the forest elephants in central Africa. Central Africa is many years behind east and southern Africa with respect to the establishment of protected areas in which elephants can find refuge, yet as many as half of Africa’s elephants live here. The Dzangha-Sangha project would serve as a model for future WWF work in the region. It would be our goal to establish a more expansive system of protected areas in central Africa and in doing so, to involve local communities and make them partners in the effort to protect elephants.



Source: “Saving Two of the World’s Most Treasured Species: The African Elephant Conservation Act of 1997 and The Asian Elephant Conservation Act of 1997.” Hearing before the Committee on Environment and Public Works, United States Senate, 1997. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office.