5 - 10 million elephants roamed across Africa - in 1979 there
were 1.3 million, and in 1989 these numbers had dropped to
600 000. This large drop in numbers during the eighties was
largely due to poaching. At the CITES (Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) meeting
of October ’89 in Lausanne, Switzerland, the African
elephant was placed on Appendix I of CITES, and a world-wide
trading ban on ivory and other elephant products was initiated.
Appendix I means a species is threatened with extinction and
can be traded only if permits are obtained by the importers
and exporters, and cannot be traded for primarily commercial
has been pressure from various countries to lift the ban over
the years, but at the CITES meetings of ’92 and ’94
the ban remained in effect. A large part of the world ivory
trade has collapsed, and there is now a very limited market.
New pressures and problems are now facing elephant populations,
such as the increased demand for land, and a change in land-use
patterns due to human overpopulation and desertification.
In some areas elephant populations have stabilized and now
pose a threat to certain habitats. This has led to the controversial
issue of elephant culling.
pressures from increased land use intensify, combined with
the on-going threat of poaching, a major concern is the affect
on elephant family groups and social structure: old elephants
with big tusks are becoming a rarity, and many old matriarchs
on which the family groups depend have died. Elephant groups
are now led by younger, less experienced animals who may not
know where to go and how to survive when food and water are
scarce, and are also more likely to encounter problems with