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Education key to long-term survival of African elephants

Following the release of the Great Elephant Census, Dr Kate Evans, who runs the UK charity and Botswana NGO Elephants for Africa says that education is the key to the long-tem survival of African elephants.

The release of the Great Elephant Census estimates that there are just 350,000 African elephants left in the whole of Africa. It revealed declines of a staggering 30% – 144,000 elephants – between 2007 and 2014 in the areas covered by the survey.

The Paul G. Allen’s Great Elephant Census (GEC) is the first continent-wide aerial survey of African elephants using standardised methodology.

Dr Kate Evans and her team have a holistic approach to their work, researching the ecology of the elephants of the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park and partnering with communities to understand and address their needs.

Dr Evans comments: “Whilst poaching is having the largest impact on the African elephant population throughout their remaining range states, human-elephant conflict is of major conservation concern to the long-term survival of the elephant. 70-80% of the remaining elephant population rely on land outside of protected areas, thus coming into conflict with humans – trying to make a living from subsistence farming.”

Home to the largest remaining elephant population, an estimated third of the African elephant population, is landlocked Botswana. In the heart of Botswana lies the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park. Elephants for Africa set up camp here in 2012 to study the unique population; a population dominated by male elephants.

Dr Evans adds: “Whilst fascinating from a biological perspective, male elephants are the main crop raiders and their relatively recent return to this area is making it tough on the human population residing on the outskirts of the park, who have not had to live alongside elephants for quite some time and have lost some of their cultural knowledge about how to do so.

“Partnering with these communities will enable Elephants for Africa to give these communities access to information to facilitate them to increase sustainability of their livelihood and increase skills to benefit from wildlife. Grassroots education and community involvement is the key to the long-term conservation of the iconic African elephant.

“Conducting research on African elephants is vital to their conservation, since it helps us to understand their behaviour, resource requirements and responses to changing environmental conditions. We are very proud of the work we do with the communities in Botswana and Elephants for Africa aims to inspire people to be the conservation leaders of the future.”

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