Elephant numbers in Kenya have grown by 12 per cent after a crackdown* on poachers*.
The first wildlife census* in the African nation has revealed a healthy rise in the elephant population since the height of its poaching crisis.
No creature was too great or small to count in the three-month quest on land and sea in the country’s 58 national parks and reserves and private and community conservancies*.
A crackdown on ivory* and horn hunters, plus harsher penalties*, was credited for the discovery of 36,280 elephants, up by 12 per cent since 2014, when poachers were hunting them in large numbers.
“The reduction in losses in terms of elephants, rhinos and other endangered* species is because of the great work that KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service) are doing,” President Uhuru Kenyatta said, urging his officers to find new ways to keep poaching at bay.
Researchers used planes, helicopters and boats, and studied camera trap footage and dung, for the audit of nearly 59 per cent of Kenya’s land mass that began in May. Lions, zebras, hirolas – also known as Hunter’s antelopes – and the three species of giraffe also increased in number, according to the state-funded study, which cost 250 million Kenyan shillings ($3 million).
However, some rare species of antelope, such as sable and mountain bongos, are at risk of extinction*, with evidence of fewer than 100 of each. Other concerns are Kenya’s growing human population and the rise in demand for land for settlement, plus the impact of grazing, logging and charcoal burning.
Travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic are also threatening to reverse gains made in conservation. Park fees, which help fund wildlife management, and millions of jobs, have been lost in Kenya and neighbouring countries, contributing to a rise in the hunting of animals for food.
Africa’s elephants have been recognised recently as two separate species, one of them a step away from extinction. Forest and savanna elephants have been devastated by poaching and shrinking space, the International Union for Conservation of Nature reports in its latest red list of threatened species. The population of savanna elephants, found in Kenya and elsewhere, has plunged by at least 60 per cent in 50 years, prompting the union to reclassify* them from “vulnerable” to “endangered”.
Forest elephants are “critically endangered” after their numbers fell by more than 86 per cent in three decades. The next category is extinct. About 1.5 million elephants roamed the continent 50 years ago but a census in 2016 found only 415,000 left in the wild.
The move to separate Africa’s elephant species settles a debate that has engaged specialists for at least two decades. It follows fresh research into the genetics* of the populations.
Travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic are threatening to reverse gains made in conservation. Park fees, which help fund wildlife management, and millions of jobs, have been lost in Kenya and neighbouring countries, contributing to a rise in the hunting of animals for food. Picture: Getty Images.
This story was originally published by The Times and is republished with permission
- crackdown: severe measures to restrict undesirable or illegal people or behaviour
- poachers: someone who illegally hunts, captures and kills animals
- census: officially count or survey, particularly of a population
- conservancies: organisations that work to protect animals, plants and natural resources
- ivory: the hard, creamy-white material that is the main part of elephant tusks
- penalties: punishments, sanctions, fines
- endangered: at risk of extinction
- extinction: termination or end of a species, starting when the last member dies
- reclassify: assign to a different class or category
- genetics: brand of biology dealing with heredity and genes
- What is the estimated percentage growth of the Kenyan elephant population?
- How have Covid-19 travel restrictions threatened these gains?
- In addition to elephants, which animals have also increased their numbers?
- Which rare species are at risk of extinction?
- The situation for African elephants remains critical – what did the 2016 census reveal?
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1. Animal protection
The increase in the elephant population in the recent count in Kenya is good news, but they are still an endangered species, meaning we need to make a huge effort to keep them safe and reproducing to keep them around for thousands of years to come.
List the main threats affecting the elephant population:
Now list some possible ways to help eliminate or reduce the impact of these threats to keep their numbers increasing, not decreasing:
Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: Science; Critical and Creative Thinking
Explain what you think the reasons are for hunters to want to poach (the illegal trafficking and killing of wildlife) elephants in the wild? How can we, as humans trying to protect this species, try and reduce the want or need for hunters to do this?
Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: Science; Ethical Understandings; Critical and Creative Thinking
Stretch your sentence
Find a “who” in the article – a person or an animal. Write it down.
Add three adjectives to describe them better.
Now add a verb to your list. What are they doing?
Add an adverb about how they are doing the action.
Using all the words listed, create one descriptive sentence.