Tag Archives: #poaching

World Wildlife Day 2015

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Today is World Wildlife Day 2015, which this year highlights the challenges of the illegal trade in wildlife.

World Wildlife Day, on the 3rd of March, marks the day of the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The global trade in wild animals and their body parts is estimated by UNEP at US$50-150 billion per year. The global illegal fisheries catch is valued at US$10-23.5 billion a year and illegal logging, including processing, at US$30-100 billion.actionposter_thumb_elephant

These numbers don’t include the costs of fighting poaching, the impact that fight has on local communities, or the indirect costs of border security – after all, 90% of all illegal animals and animal parts are shipped across international borders.

These numbers don’t include issues like the introduction of non-native species in the form of exotic pets and the havoc they can wreak on local eco-systems (not to mention the introduction of foreign pathogens).

They don’t include the cost of fighting the organized crime that is funded via illegal wildlife trade.

What can each individual do besides sign a petition, make a donation or offer support today at #SeriousAboutWildlifeCrime?

As I said in an earlier post on ivory, we can cut of the trade on the consumer end. That saltwater fishtank might be a nice conversation piece, but the fish in it were likely harvested at the cost of an entire coral reef habitat.

Find sustainable alternatives to traditional medicine that calls for endangered species like pangolin or rhino (after all, people have been substituting buffalo horn for rhino for years).

That supposedly antique ivory trinket was probably made from poached elephant tusk. If that hardwood lumber for your floors is being sold at a price too good to be true, chances are its been illegally logged. And so on.

What you buy as a consumer ripples out through the entire environment of the illegal wildlife trade.

I thought I’d repost Farewell, Forest Symphony, something I wrote a couple of years ago on the interconnectivity of one single endangered species, the elephant, on its entire ecosystem.

It’s not a short post – but what is true for this particular animal is true in other ways for all the other endangered animals and plants:

They, and we, are all part of something larger.

Sunset over the Congo rainforestPhoto: David Beaune via Mongabay.com

Sunset over the Congo rainforest
Photo: David Beaune via Mongabay.com

The fundamental chords that hold a symphony together aren’t always apparent to the untrained ear. The symphony of an ecosystem is often more complex than we comprehend.

A recent study draws a vital connection between elephant poaching, tree reproduction and forest ecosystems. Certain trees – in this case, large bush mango trees – have evolved alongside large animals, in this case, forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis).

The trees have developed seeds which are best dispersed via elephants eating the seeds, walking long distances, and then depositing digested seeds far from the parent tree. The seeds of these trees are too large to be properly digested and dispersed by smaller mammals.

Unfortunately for both the wild trees and the elephants, up to 75% of the elephant population has been killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where this study was carried out, and an estimated 60% of all forest elephants in the world have been killed in the service of the illegal ivory trade – all in the last ten years.

From an interview in an article on Mongabay.com:

“[The] Congo forest without elephants would certainly lose part of its soul, but elephant extinction with their seed dispersal services would also affect the entire plant community,” lead author David Beaune with the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology told mongabay.com. Forest elephants are “important gardeners of the forest,” says Beaune, so important in fact that when elephants go extinct in a part of the forest, important trees are unable to reproduce. “If we can’t replace elephants, then the reproduction of these plant species is hugely compromised.”

Irvingia gabonensis, the African mango, an edible fruit with nutritious nuts at their core. Source: Herbwisdon

Irvingia gabonensis, the African mango, an edible fruit with nutritious nuts at their core.
Source: Herbwisdom

The bush mango tree used in the study, Irvingia gabonensis, happens to be one that is also important to the economy of many African regions, and has been successfully cultivated. Its reproductive patterns are well-known.

It plays a key role in preventing soil erosion as well as being useful as a cash crop.
What of the many other fruits and seeds eaten by forest elephants which are less-studied, with lesser known roles in the ecosystem? Without the massive ‘gardeners of the forest’, what aspects of the ecosystem will crumble?
It puts me in mind of the final movement of Haydn’s Symphony No. 45, in which all the instruments disappear. There is a final song of the remaining violins, but it is thin and lonely without the other melodies.

Ivory Trade Antics

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Elephant Eye Artist: Kristan Benson

Elephant Eye
Artist: Kristan Benson

There have been several elephant and ivory-related news items over the past few weeks, including a year-long ban on ivory imports announced by China this week, and the announcement by several Hong Kong retailers that they will no longer be selling elephant products.

New regulations have just come into effect in the United States, one of the leading markets for legal and illegal ivory, that further restricts ivory imports and sales.

New laws that would ban ivory trade outright in New York and California (proposed) reflect findings that in these national markets, the first and second respectively, between 80-90% of all ivory being sold is illegal.

I know I should say they are encouraging, and these developments are good news.

But my real reaction is: Why are people still buying and selling ivory?

This is the issue with legal ivory sales within countries: If people see an item openly for sale, they assume it’s legal.

© WWF-Canon / Folke Wulf

© WWF-Canon / Folke Wulf

Once ivory has entered its destination country, it is extremely difficult to differentiate the illegal stuff (harvested from one of the elephants killed every 15 minutes around the world) from the legal stuff (either antique, or imported before the African elephant was listed in CITES Appendix I in 1990).

I am baffled that the US still allows the importation of hunting trophy tusks. But given the ongoing battles to re-instate permission to allow for the importation of endangered rhino horns even as the rhino population is in steep decline, it shouldn’t be a surprise.

Added to this is a dire lack of awareness among shipping workers and officials as to the methods used for transporting illegal animal parts, even as 90% of the illegal trade crosses international borders.

I’m sure there are many, many dealers who handle only legal ivory, but as a responsible and concerned consumer, would you know the difference?

Origami elephant created by Sipho Mabona Photo by Philipp Schmidli / Mabona

Origami elephant created by Sipho Mabona
Photo by Philipp Schmidli / Mabona

I know I wouldn’t.

There’s an easy solution to that: Don’t buy the stuff.

Stop buying it anywhere until all imports have been stopped, the elephant populations and those of other catastrophically endangered source animals have rebounded, and the illegal market has dried up. If it’s made of ivory, that means no trinkets, no souvenirs, no fancy gifts for business associates, no allegedly legal decorative items for the home. Don’t admire that new ivory bracelet someone shows you, don’t covet that sculpture.

A thriving market in one kind of animal part only supports all the others, and the trade in general.

Sorry, sellers of legal ivory, the stakes are just too high.

 

Tipping the Scales

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21 February is World Pangolin Day, and anyone who follows this blog knows I have a soft spot for the scaly anteater that is being rapidly hunted into extinction.

The ongoing decimation of the slow and strange pangolin is a grim illustration of the long-lasting impact greed and lack of political willpower can have on fellow inhabitants on the planet.

Pangolin in defensive position. Source: Project Pangolin

Pangolin in defensive position.
Source: Project Pangolin

Pangolin scales are used in traditional medicine, mostly in China and Vietnam. I found a site which promises to be a “complete guide to proven herbal remedies.” Note the word ‘proven’.

It lists pangolin scales as being composed of “stearic acid, cholesterol, N-butyl tricosylamide, cyclo (L-seryl-L-tyrosyl), cyclo (D-seryl-L-tyrosyl), and other 18 kinds of microelements” and “16 types of free amino acids.”

This makes it sound like pangolin scales have a chemical composition uniquely suited to medicinal uses. It does not highlight that pangolin scales, along with rhino horn and goat hooves and human fingernails, all have the same basic composition, and are all made of keratin.

I have no doubt that practitioners and adherents of traditional medicines believe in what they are doing with pangolin scales, and by extension, the consumption of pangolin flesh, especially that of unborn pangolins.

However, the same web site volunteers that most practitioners have been substituting buffalo horn for ‘medicinal’ rhino horn since the 1990s due to poaching and legal issues.

Rhino horn.

Rhino horn.

So if one kind of horn can simply be substituted for another, from entirely different animals, why not just substitute human nail cuttings for pangolin scales?

In the end, they all have approximately the same medicinal value beyond that of a placebo, namely, none.

Traditional medicines were born in a time of fewer humans and more animals. Harvesting these animals from the wild until they are all gone is a ridiculous, illegal and shameful undertaking for all concerned, from those who poach to those who consume.

An African tree pangolin (Manis tricuspis) climbs a tree. Source: British Museum

An African tree pangolin climbs a tree.
Source: British Museum

The various species of critically endangered pangolins (and the rhino, and the elephant, and all the other iconic and lesser known animals being hunted to extinction) have a place in the world, but it’s not in a sack, being traded for every-increasing amounts of money to satisfy our own greed for better health or more income.

So on this World Pangolin Day, whip up a Happy Pangolin cocktail, celebrate the pangolins and other animals staying right where they belong, and celebrate all those people who are working hard to achieve that goal, maybe make a donation, and most importantly, maybe have a conversation with someone else about not supporting the illegal trade of any animal or plant.

Save Pangolins

IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group

Tikki Hywood Trust (Africa)

Save Vietnam’s Wildlife

Project Pangolin

Pangorarium (Facebook) – keep up with events and newsWorldPangolinDay2015-640x669

Toothfish Piracy

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*Update below (July 29).

There are a couple of cinema-worthy chase scenes going on right now, all located in the Southern Ocean.

The New Zealand navy is currently chasing two ships sailing under the flag of Equatorial Guinea for illegal fishing, and a Sea Shepherd vessel has been chasing a Nigerian trawler, the Thunder, since December 17. The Sea Shepherd chase, over 1000 nautical miles at this point, has already broken the record for longest documented sea chase. And it’s not over.

So, what’s at the heart of this high seas drama?

Fish Artist: Si Scott

Fish
Artist: Si Scott

A deep-sea fish that was once deemed bland, ugly and unmarketable. It got its commercial start as a base for fish sticks. Later, its lack of overtly fishy flavor was turned to culinary advantage because chefs could do almost anything to it; what it lacked in strong flavor it made up for in flaky white flesh.

The Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) was renamed the Chilean sea bass by an American fish merchant in 1977, and became truly popular in haute cuisine during the 1990s. Also known as White Gold, the fish otherwise known as toothfish can currently be found on the menus of high-end restaurants mainly in the United States, Europe and Japan.

Since luxury markets combined with scarcity usually mean high prices for a product, illegal fisheries have been chasing the toothfish for years now.

Patagonian toothfish Source: National Marine Fisheries Service

Patagonian toothfish
Source: National Marine Fisheries Service

A number of international initiatives were undertaken to protect the toothfish, an animal integral to a number of ecosystems. It reproduces slowly and has a long life span – up to 50 years, two factors that make it vulnerable to overfishing.

For me, the Patagonian toothfish, together with the Antarctic toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni) also sold as Chilean sea bass, exemplify how difficult it can be to be a responsible consumer.

In the early 2000s, illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing (IUU) was estimated to account for up to 80% of all toothfish that was harvested. Recommendations to avoid Chilean sea bass in stores and restaurants have been cautiously revised because of the success of programs in fighting IUU fishing. The Marine Stewardship Council offers certification for sustainably fished toothfish, and provides possible purchase points.

And yet, we have two groups, a national navy and an environmental organization, in pursuit of industrial-scale operations fishing for what will be sold as Chilean sea bass. The poachers obviously have reliable markets to whom they can sell.

Chilean sea bass with the MSC label can generally be bought with confidence, but how often do we ask our restaurant servers or fishmongers whether the fish they are serving is appropriately labeled?

Levels of toothfish over-fishing (2013). Click on the image for a larger view. Source: Rochelle Price

Levels of toothfish over-fishing (2013).
Dark grey=quota levels, Red=estimated IUU catch. Click on the image for a larger view.
Source: Rochelle Price

 

* The Sea Shepherd’s spectacular chase only ended in April, with the crew of the Thunder allegedly sinking their own ship to destroy evidence – and then being rescued by crew members of the Sea Shepherd’s two pursuing ships. A riveting article in the New York Times provides more detail than I can here, and I encourage taking the time to read it.

The ships being pursued by the New Zealand navy have been found in Thailand and Cape Verde, respectively – renamed and reflagged.

 

The Full Cloth

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WHITE ELEPHANT

Origami elephant
Photo: Philipp Schmidli / Sipho Mabona

On World Wildlife Day, March 3, Nepal achieved a rare feat: an entire year without wildlife poaching. In the three years since 2011, the country lost a single rhino to poaching. Populations of rhinos, tigers and elephants are on the rise.

Compare this to other nations, where these animals are disappearing fast. South Africa has seen 146 rhinos already killed in 2014, over 1000 in 2013.

So, what is Nepal doing right?

Many things, apparently, because no single solution works. First, the country has a zero-tolerance approach to poachers. Get caught, go straight to jail for up to fifteen years. And there’s no long court process involved – Nepal’s forest law allows chief game wardens to pass judgement and punishment, lessening the likelihood of escape or a long, fruitless court trial.

The country also places a high priority on seeking out and capturing ring leaders. Various agencies work collaboratively to share information and find dealers and enforce anti-trafficking laws.

Tourists prepare to ride an elephant during a wildlife safari in Chitwan National Park. Photo: Gemunu Amarasinghe / AP

Tourists prepare to ride an elephant during a wildlife safari in Chitwan National Park.
Photo: Gemunu Amarasinghe / AP

Crucially, in the promotion of ecotourism, the Nepalese government not only supports programs that provide employment, it also redistributes the revenues from parks and tourism – licence fees, park entrance fees, and so on – among local communities. Half of all tourism revenues are handed back to the locals, making the animals more valuable alive rather than dead.

This achievement is all the more impressive due to Nepal’s location between China and India, two of the main regions for trafficked animal parts.

Origami elephant created by Sipho Mabona Photo by Philipp Schmidli / Mabona

Origami elephant created by Sipho Mabona
Photo by Philipp Schmidli / Mabona

Artist Sipho Mabona created an entire life-sized origami elephant out of a single piece of paper, a long project that required over a year of planning, a month of construction and many hands.

Mabona‘s elephant is a good symbol of Nepal’s achievement. This creation is no piece of easy patchwork.

Anti-poaching success is something that results from a whole cloth approach and many hands. It’s impressive, it’s inspiring, and at the same time, it’s fragile.

Time lapse film of the elephant’s construction.

Complex Bridging

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Mobius Bridge design Source: NEXT

Möbius Bridge design
Source: NEXT

A new bridge project was announced in China this month, the Möbius Bridge. Designed by Dutch architecture firm NEXT, the complicated structure will span the Dragon King Harbor River in China’s Hunan Province.

NEXT describes the bridge as a “construction with the intersecting connections based on the principle of the Möbius ring,” which will “connect a diversity of routings on different heights.”

A different kind of bridge, the African Elephant Summit, was forged over the past few days in Gaborone, Botswana.

Convened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the government of Botswana, the summit ended with the successful signing of a list of 14 Urgent Measures to stem illegal poaching of elephants and the illegal international trade in elephant parts.

Highly prized African elephant (Loxodonta africana) tusks. © WWF-Canon / Martin Harvey

Highly prized African elephant (Loxodonta africana) tusks.
© WWF-Canon / Martin Harvey

The list includes Urgent Measure 6, which aims to “strengthen cooperation among law enforcement agencies in range, transit, and consumer states,” and indicates that this agreement bridges the states in which elephants are poached (among them Gabon, Kenya Niger and Zambia), the states known for ivory transit (Vietnam, Philippines and Malaysia), and the states driving ivory demand (China, United States and Thailand).

IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefevre was quoted as saying, “We are very pleased with the result of the summit, especially as it involves some of the most important countries along the illegal ivory value chain.”

© WWF-Canon / Folke Wulf

© WWF-Canon / Folke Wulf

She continued, “We hope that these outcomes will go beyond the summit’s focus on African elephants and boost broader efforts to combat illegal wildlife trade in other species which have been threatened by it, such as rhinos and pangolins.”

It will have to be combined with efforts to reduce poverty, corruption and demand, the triad of drivers in the illegal elephant trade, but the international agreement forms what will hopefully be a strong, multi-level approach of getting from here to there.

Precedent Setting

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Update below.

At its 2014 convention, the Dallas Safari Club will be auctioning off the rare chance to kill an adult rhinoceros in Namibia and the even rarer chance to bring the trophy parts back home. The organizers say they can expect up to $750,000 dollars, and that every penny will go to the ‘Conservation Trust Fund for Namibia’’s Black Rhino’.

The hunt would be carried out with the permission of both the Namibian government and of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to import parts of the black rhino. These animal parts are otherwise highly controlled and illegal, as there are only an estimated 5000 black rhinos left in the world and they are both protected under the Endangered Species Act, and heavily poached for their horns.

The DSC 2014 convention banner

The DSC 2014 convention banner

This notion of high profile hunting as a means of conservation is nothing new, and hunters have often been aligned with conservationists when it comes to protecting land and species.

However, not one article I have read on this has mentioned the background to the strange approval of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

Earlier this year, the USFWS set a precedent by issuing a permit allowing the import of a black rhino trophy. The permit was the first USFWS permit ever allowing parts of an endangered species hunted abroad to be brought into the United States.

It was approved  following an import application filed by the hunter himself, with the assistance of lawyer John J. Jackson III, who runs Conservation Force, a Louisiana-based conservation non-profit organization.

David K. Reinke poses with the black rhino he shot in 2009. The work of Conservation Force means he was able to bring the horn back to the U.S. Photo: Thormählen & Cochran Safaris

David K. Reinke poses with the black rhino he shot in 2009.
The advocacy work of Conservation Force helped him bring the horn back to the U.S.
Photo: Thormählen & Cochran Safaris

For insight into the Conservation Force strategy, reading the group’s Updates and Alerts page is enlightening.

Most entries deal with overturning the endangered status of various listed species (lions, polar bears, etc.); legal attempts to reduce or eliminate restrictions on the importation of restricted animal parts; and finally, an update on the Dallas Safari Club’s award to John and Chrissie Jackson of Conservation Force for their “tireless advocacy of hunting as an integral part of wildlife conservation.”

Through a variety of strategies including tourism and rural development, Namibia has been very successful – far more so than its neighbor South Africa – in preventing poaching and promoting the recovery of the black rhino population without the assistance and funds of high end foreign hunters. So I am not sure what kind of value this new trend (if two cases can be called a trend) is supposed to add to conservation.

 

Credit: Planet Save

Credit: Planet Save

I am not fully versed in the value of hunting individual animals from a small genetic pool of an endangered species like the black rhino (Diceros bicornis); perhaps it’s a useful method.

I also don’t know much about the ‘Conservation Trust Fund for Namibia’’s Black Rhino’, the fund to which the Dallas Safari Club intends to donate the auction amount from the black rhino hunt – I was unable to find any listings online which mentioned this trust fund, but for all I know it could be part of one of Namibia’s many long-standing legitimate conservation groups.

I can’t claim agreement with the argument that promoting the hunting of endangered species, putting a high monetary value the hunt and on the very parts for which these animals are being poached into extinction, is a viable path towards saving these animals – not only for our future generations, but for theirs.

What I do know is that the Conservation Force’s determined efforts over many years to establish an endangered species import precedent succeeded this year with the USFWS permit.

I am also quite sure that this first trophy hunt auction, which would not have been possible without that precedent, will almost certainly not be the last of its kind.

 

UPDATE: 21 May 2015. The rhino auctioned for hunting was shot dead on 20 May 2015 by Corey Knowlton, the Texas hunter who won the auction bid.

From the AFP: Knowlton stated, “I think people have a problem just with the fact that I like to hunt… I want to see the black rhino as abundant as it can be. I believe in the survival of the species.”

Since 2012, Namibia has sold five licences each year to kill individual rhinos, saying the money is essential to fund conservation projects and anti-poaching protection. The only rhinos selected for the hunts are old ones that no longer breed and that pose a threat to younger rhinos.

Sorry, I just don’t agree. This is no different from countries selling off illegal rhino horn or elephant ivory seized from traders.

As long as the animals are worth more dead than they are alive, for any reason, poaching and the trade in illegal animal parts will be encouraged.

 

Tusk Economics

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© WWF-Canon / Folke Wulf

The United States government announced this week that it would be underscoring a deeper commitment to banning the traffic in illegal animal parts by publicly destroying six million tons of ivory (yes, six million tons). Much like the public destruction of seized ivory and tusks that took place earlier this year in the Philippines, this kind of display is meant to achieve several goals:

Raising awareness: Public ivory crushing – the sanctioned destruction of a product generally recognized as highly valuable – should get the attention of those who have somehow managed to ignore the ongoing destruction of some of the planet’s most iconic species. Poaching activity has ballooned over the past few years, with an estimated 96 elephants currently being killed – on a daily basis.

Highly prized African elephant (Loxodonta africana) tusks. © WWF-Canon / Martin Harvey

Highly prized African elephant (Loxodonta africana) tusks.
© WWF-Canon / Martin Harvey

Cutting off the income of traffickers and extremist groups: Wildlife trafficking funds large, organized criminal networks. Trafficking has an estimated annual value of $10 billion, and ivory traffickers are known to deal in narcotics and weapons, as well as fund extremist groups.

Sending a message: Many countries may not be willing to make the case to major trading partners such as China that the ivory trade will no longer be tolerated – but the destruction of ivory on this scale is a clear signal of this intent. Over 40% of illegal ivory finds its way to China. While some argue for flooding the market with ivory in order to cheapen its desirability, in the current climate, this would likely only expand the market.

Undermining corruption: Once destroyed, the ivory stocks cannot be filtered out for illicit sale and the laundering of newer, illegal ivory. The 1989 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species outlawed ivory trade and poaching, with the exception of ivory that was collected prior to the convention. Less of a concern in the US than in other countries, old ivory has been filtered out in exchange for new ivory.

Photo: Mark Pain

Photo: Mark Pain

Via executive order, President Obama formed the Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking this summer to support increased efforts to ban wildlife trafficking.

These developments are all positive.

Still, I’m not quite sure what to make of the fact that the US State Department has framed the trafficking crackdown as a ‘national security crisis’ as well as a conservation issue.

As this Motherboard article points out, “the new council lacks any former investigators. The US is a major market for the wildlife trade in general, and budget cuts have left Fish and Wildlife with just 216 special agents. (The DEA alone has more than 4,000.) If the US is to make a dent in its own contributions to the trade, it’ll need to step up enforcement at home.”

Male elephants sparring.  Photo by Karpagam Chelliah

Male elephants sparring.
Photo: Karpagam Chelliah

Destroying ivory stocks sends a powerful message – the US and the Philippines are the only countries outside of Africa to have taken this step, and China continues to claim that illegal poaching is Africa’s problem. But I’ll be withholding heartfelt applause until I see what further steps will be taken to undercut this lucrative blood trade.

More:

The Guardian articleUS to destroy ivory stocks in effort to stop illegal elephant poaching by Suzanne Goldenberg

Motherboard articleThe White House Is Getting More Serious About Wildlife Crime by Derek Mead

Bryan Christy blog – National Geographic journalist, well-known for his work on the illegal ivory trade, comments on the strategy of the destruction of ivory stocks.

Farewell Forest Symphony

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Sunset over the Congo rainforestPhoto: David Beaune via Mongabay.com

Sunset over the Congo rainforest
Photo: David Beaune via Mongabay.com

The fundamental chords that hold a symphony together aren’t always apparent to the untrained ear. The symphony of an ecosystem is often more complex than we comprehend.

A recent study draws a vital connection between elephant poaching, tree reproduction and forest ecosystems. Certain trees – in this case, large bush mango trees – have evolved alongside large animals, in this case, forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis). The trees have developed seeds which are best dispersed via elephants eating the seeds, walking long distances, and then depositing digested seeds far from the parent tree. The seeds of these trees are too large to be properly digested and dispersed by smaller mammals.

Unfortunately for both the wild trees and the elephants, up to 75% of the elephant population has been killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where this study was carried out, and an estimated 60% of all forest elephants in the world have been killed in the service of the illegal ivory trade – all in the last ten years.

From an interview in an article on Mongabay.com:

“[The] Congo forest without elephants would certainly lose part of its soul, but elephant extinction with their seed dispersal services would also affect the entire plant community,” lead author David Beaune with the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology told mongabay.com. Forest elephants are “important gardeners of the forest,” says Beaune, so important in fact that when elephants go extinct in a part of the forest, important trees are unable to reproduce. “If we can’t replace elephants, then the reproduction of these plant species is hugely compromised.”

The bush mango tree used in the study, Irvingia gabonensis, happens to be one that is also important to the economy of many African regions, and has been successfully cultivated. Its reproductive patterns are well-known. It plays a key role in preventing soil erosion as well as being useful as a cash crop.
What of the many other fruits and seeds eaten by forest elephants which are less-studied, with lesser known roles in the ecosystem? Without the massive ‘gardeners of the forest’, what aspects of the ecosystem will crumble?
It puts me in mind of the final movement of Haydn’s Symphony No. 45, in which all the instruments disappear. There is a final song of the remaining violins, but it is thin and lonely without the other melodies.


More:

Original study in Forest Ecology and Management: Density-dependent effect affecting elephant seed-dispersed tree recruitment (Irvingia gabonensis) in Congo Forest by D., L. Bollache, B. Fruth, G. Hohmann1 and F. Bretagnolle

Mongabay.com article

Scientific American blog post

VOA news article – Ivory Poaching Decimates Forest Elephant Population