Forever Wild Elephant Conservation Initiative
The Wilderness Foundation Africa's Forever Wild Conservation Programme was developed in 2011 as a response to the rhino poaching crisis and has been active through the Rhino Protection Initiative. In 2013 the Programme was expanded to include elephant, lion, leopard, and shark conservation initiatives as they represent key species symptomatic of the challenges facing the environments in which they live.
The African Elephant population in 1979 was estimated at 1.3 million animals which by 2013 has dwindled to 600 000. In the 1980’s, an estimated 100 000 elephants were killed each year and up to 80% of herds were lost in some regions.
Currently roughly 25 000 elephants are being poached in Africa per year. Populations of elephants, especially in southern and east Africa, that until recently showed promising signs of recovery could be at risk due to the recent surge in poaching which is feeding the illegal ivory trade.
Challenges to Conservation
- Growing human populations
- Habitat loss and fragmentation. Less than 20% of African elephant habitat is formally protected.
- Climate change. Hotter and drier habitat will result in poorer foraging conditions and threaten calf survival
- Unprecedented levels of poaching could render African elephants near-totally extinct within ten years
- Insufficient anti-poaching capacity
- Weak law enforcement and corruption
- Domestic ivory markets still thriving in parts of Africa