The number of elephants killed illegally in Africa has fallen from 10% to less than 4%.
The research, published in Nature, analysed annual surveillance data from 53 different sites across the African continent between 2002 and 2017, covering half of all African elephants in the world.
The research findings highlight the fact that some elephant populations are more targeted, while others, such as the herds in Kruger National Park, are growing in size and some, in Namibia, have never experienced poaching.
The main cause of poaching is the demand for ivory.
Ivory has long been used as a valuable craft material and the demand for ivory in the middle class has been a strong cause of the increase in poaching of elephants during the 21st century.
One of the reasons, which probably caused the lower demand for ivory, is the recent ban on ivory trade in China.
In 2017, China made the ivory trade illegal.
Because the ivory trade is illegal, valid market data for the commodity remain inaccessible; researchers have instead measured the supply by analyzing large-scale ivory seizures and measured the market value based on the typical market price of ivory.
After establishing the overall export rates and value of ivory, the team continued to assess the factors that could contribute to the distribution of poaching rates across the continent, as well as the ability to control supply.
They examined factors that could indicate a lack of national stability, such as the infant mortality rate, perceived corruption index, poverty distribution, site area and the adequacy of law enforcement.
Looking at all the different co-factors, the researchers found that poverty density, particularly in the villages around the sites examined, and corruption in state institutions were the main factors along with the market price of ivory.
The study concludes that as of 2017, the birth rate of the African elephant was reintegrating the more than 320,000 individuals roaming the African wilderness.
- Hauenstein, S., Kshatriya, M., Blanc, J. et al. African elephant poaching rates correlated with local poverty, national corruption and global ivory price. Nat Commun 10, 2242 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-09993-2