The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) placed the African elephant on its most critically endangered list, Appendix I, in 1989. The ban led to more aggressive anti-poaching campaigns and increased investment in wildlife protection, and set African elephants on the road to recovery. But a new study from Stephen Blake, Samantha Strindberg, Fiona Maisels, and colleagues warns that while savannah elephants may indeed be reboundingin part because they live in countries with long histories of wildlife management, where protection is facilitated by open plains habitats and usually good infrastructuretheir forest relatives, hidden in the Congo Basin rainforests, still face intense poaching pressure.
Despite increased awareness about the bloody legacy of the illegal ivory trade, consumers outside Africa, particularly in Asia, continue to buy ivory. And despite the 1989 ban, the status and management of African elephants remain precarious, except in southern Africa, where effective management of the savannah elephant has ensured its protection. But while the life history and conservation status of savannah elephants are well known, relatively little is known about the biology of forest elephants, which some scientists suspect may be a distinct species uniquely adapted to Africa's dense rainforests. And because central African nations (where ivory poaching persists) have far less capacity for elephant management than southern African nations, conservationists fear that legalizing even limited trade in ivory from southern African elephants will place the forest elephant in serious jeopardy.
With logging and road-building in the Congo Basin projected to increase dramatically, Blake et al. set out to chart the abundance and distribution of forest elephants across the Congo Basin. Working in conjunction with the CITES Monitoring of the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) program, the researchers systemat
Contact: Natalie Bouaravong
Public Library of Science