New data on African elephant populations released

01 March 2013 | News story

The fifth update on the status of the African elephant released today covers 37 range States and includes new or updated information for 194 sites, including 39 new survey areas, mainly in Eastern and Central Africa.

The report tracks the reasons for change between this report and the last, noting where repeated surveys have been conducted, or where different survey methodologies have been used and different areas have been covered. It also notes where data has been degraded if it is more than 10 years old. While data quality in Central Africa has improved, data quality and coverage in some of the range States in Eastern and Southern Africa with large elephant populations has declined significantly.

Produced by the IUCN SSC African Elephant Specialist Group (IUCN SSC AfESG), the current 2013 provisional update includes data received up until the end of 2012. Reports from a number of important survey areas covered in 2012 were not available at the time of publishing, and an updated final report will be published later this year, along with a comprehensive update of the African elephant range map.

Holding just over 56% of the continent’s elephants, Southern Africa has by far the largest known number of elephants across the four sub-regions. Eastern Africa holds almost 27%, Central Africa 16% and West Africa 1.5%. While populations in Central Africa have in the past been most at risk from poaching and the illegal ivory trade, previously secure populations in Eastern and Southern Africa are now facing an increasing threat from illegal killing. Land conversion and loss of habitat continues to be the major long-term threat to the species across its range.

The report includes detailed references to data from the CITES MIKE (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants) programme and the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS), operated by TRAFFIC on behalf of the CITES Parties. The IUCN SSC AfESG has worked closely with both monitoring programmes as well as the data providers to the African and Asian Elephant Database (AAED) to provide periodic updates on the status of the African elephant to the global conservation community. This work has provided a much deeper understanding of the entire value chain for illegal ivory from source populations to consumer markets.

The data used for this update is housed in the African Elephant Database (AED), the most comprehensive database on the conservation status of the African elephant which is now housed within a ‘global’ elephant database - the  AAED. The rapid online publication of survey results as they are received is a new feature of the database. The site provides greater accessibility to and interaction with the data for its key users - conservation managers and policy makers.

The IUCN SSC AfESG works with its members, as well as range State wildlife agencies, NGOs and individual researchers to ensure that the most recent available data are included in the database, and is very grateful for the cooperation of all data providers, as well as the many partners and donors that have helped in the development of the AAED and the preparation of this update: CITES, CITES MIKE, Solertium, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the European Commission, Tusk Trust and Save the Elephants.

The full report ‘2013 Provisional African Elephant Status Report’ can be read here.