New Fears for Forest Elephants

February 28, 2013

WCS conservationists fear the worst for forest elephants in the Democratic Republic of Congo after a new survey shows their numbers in the Okapi Faunal Reserve have taken a dramatic plunge. Ivory poaching is to blame.

It’s considered the best-protected area in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), but the Okapi Faunal Reserve is witnessing an alarming loss of forest elephants. New surveys by WCS and the DRC government’s wildlife department reveal that the country’s largest remaining population of forest elephants has plummeted by 37 percent during the last five years. Only 1,700 individual elephants now roam the reserve.

What accounts for losses within DRC’s safest haven?

Wildlife suffered during the country’s 1996-2003 civil war, and rebels launched a deadly attack inside the park during June 2012. But certain species withstood these threats: chimpanzee, okapi, and duiker populations held stable between 2007-2011.

Forest elephants are a different story.

Our surveys demonstrate that elephants declined from 6,800 to 2,700 individuals between the late 90s and 2007—but OFR still sheltered the country’s largest population of forest elephants in 2007. Now, only 1,700 remain. Conservationists worry that Africa’s second largest country could lose its forest elephants within 10 years.

To learn more about our recent findings, read our press release>>

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