According to the World Wildlife Fund, Elephants could disappear from one of Africa’s most important wildlife reserves within six years if industrial scale poaching isn’t stopped and mining brought under control.
Selous national park, a world heritage site in southern Tanzania, has lost an average of almost 2,500 elephants a year since the 1970s. But it has now reached a critical stage with only about 15,000 left, according to the latest census.
“The population is at an historic low. and urgent measures are required to protect the remaining animals and return the population to a stable and sustainable size. If this trend continues, elephants could vanish from Selous by early 2022,” says the WWF in a new study.
But the park, which is also home to lions, leopards, wild dog, buffalo, hippo, crocodile and over 400 bird species, is also threatened by large scale mining. Nearly 75% of Selous is covered by oil and gas concessions, and 54 mining concessions have been awarded.
Mining could lead to water pollution and environmental degradation, says the report. “Extractive industries cause environmental degradation, including the destruction of wildlife habitats in the immediate area around exploration sites. In 2012, the boundary of the Selous World Heritage site was modified to enable the construction of a large scale uranium mine in the southern area of the reserve. Once operational, the mine is expected to produce about 60m tons of poisonous radioactive waste,” says the study.
Only 40 years ago Selous had nearly 110,000 elephants. But two waves of poaching have reduced numbers by 90%. By 2007 the population in the broader ecosystem which extends beyond the park, was down to 70,406. The second wave of poaching took place between 2010 and 2013 when an average of six elephants were killed every day by poaching syndicates.
According to WWF, the loss of wildlife could have huge financial consequences for Tanzania. The reserve currently generates $6m in annual revenues, which are distributed between the reserve, the national government, and more than 1.2 million people living in the surrounding area.
Source: The Guardian UK