THE ELEPHANT
LISTENING PROJECT

A COMBINATION OF THREATS UNIQUE TO FOREST ELEPHANTS

Forest elephants face the threats of poaching for ivory and habitat loss common to other elephants, but they also face increased pressure from hunting for meat, accelerating extraction of natural resources, and little development of an ecotourism industry that could provide alternative value. Together these raise huge challenges to their conservation

Ivory carver

Poaching
Poaching for Ivory is an increasing problem, taking the lives of many adults each year to supply the lucrative markets in Asia, but also in the U.S. Although data are scarse, poaching of forest elephants is probably on the increase. The ivory is actually more highly prized by carvers because it is softer. In addition, as protection becomes more effective in East and Southern Africa, the sparsely populated and unprotected forests of Central Africa make for safer hunting. Because of their complex social system, the death of one animal can have an effect on many others. .

Killing for the Bushmeat Trade
Poaching for meat has become an international business in recent decades, with markets for African rainforest animals reaching even New York and other major cities of the U.S. In many ways this illegal market poses the greatest threat not only to forest elephant but to all of the larger species of animal and bird resident in the forest. This is because the hunter can target elephants of all ages, even babies, and there are lucrative markets close to the killing site in addition to the growing international one. But progress can be made to reduce the incentives of supplying the bushmeat market. Large regional markets, and the international trade, require the transport of large amounts of animal protein which, in turn, requires the use of vehicles. Checkpoints on major roads and key railroad stations could help disrupt commercial networks. Vehicle access into remote areas is often limited to the roads created for extraction of natural resources (see next section) and these could be better controlled.

Aerial view of logging road in Gabon

The greatest impact of logging activity at present is the
construction of roads which open access to hunters. Careful
control of access, vehicle inspections, and arrest for violators
could make a huge difference and could be made part of the
certification for 'Sustainable Foresty'.

Extraction of Natural Resources
The extraction of natural resources like wood, minerals, and oil also has the potential to be extremely harmful. Not only do these industries often destroy vital habitat, they tend to increase both access (roads) into the forest, and the number of people living there, at least temporarily. Great strides have been made with the increased demand for 'sustainable' wood products, which has made gaining internationally recognized certification an important economic requirement for large companies. This has helped reduce the damage to forest ecosystems. However, certification does not currently include requirements to close roads and monitor access by private vehices.