NEW YORK (EMBARGOED UNTIL APRIL 2ND, 2007, 8 P.M. U.S. EDT) -- A new study coordinated by the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society and other groups found that Central Africas increasing network of roads which are penetrating deeper and deeper into the wildest areas of the Congo Basin are becoming highways of death for the little known forest elephant. The study, which appears in the journal Public Library of Science, concludes that forest elephants are severely impacted by ivory poachers who use roads to gain access into their remote jungle home. In addition, roads serve as conduits of advancing human settlement fragmenting previously intact forests where elephants live.
The authors walked over 6000 kilometers (3,700 miles) in five countries, and covered more than 68,000 square kilometers (26,000 square miles) in systematic surveys. They found that elephant abundance plummeted near roadways, largely due to heavy poaching for the ivory trade. Using elephant dung counts to tally individuals, along with counts of elephant carcasses killed by poachers to estimate illegal killing rates, the authors concluded that elephants are being pushed into the remote depths of large national parks. Forest elephants differ from savanna elephants both genetically and in appearance, having shorter straighter tusks, and smaller size, and are restricted to the forests of west and Central Africa,
An almost perfect juxtaposition exists in many areas between the distribution of elephants and of people, and in many areas elephants are lost as encroachment into the forest increases. The surveys were conducted under the auspices of MIKE (Monitoring of the Illegal Killing of Elephants) a program authorized by a resolution from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) to look at poaching trends.
Unmanaged roads are highways of death for forest elephants, said Wildlife Conservation Society biologist Dr. Stephen B
Contact: Stephen Sautner
Wildlife Conservation Society