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There’s simply no way other way to begin this story: The future for Africa’s forest elephant (Loxodonata cyclotis) is exceedingly dire. The battle to protect this “hidden elephant” from unremitting slaughter is being lost to a more aggressive and merciless demand for the animals’ ivory.
Still, despite the data and the carnage, Ruggiero—and some other conservationists—believes that there is a way for the trajectory to be slowly reversed.
If you compare the landmasses of Gabon and DRC, the latter should be the forest elephants’ stronghold by a wide margin. Lee White, as the Executive Secretary of the Agence Nationale des Parcs Nationaux (ANPN), oversees Gabon’s thirteen national parks and two other protected areas. According to White, the battle for the survival of the forest elephant will be won or lost in Gabon.
Their study, recently updated, shows that 65 percent of Africa’s forest elephants have been killed. One of the most significant long-term massacres of forest elephants has taken place in Minkebe National Park in northeast Gabon. He emphasized that the problem was that there wasn’t a coordinated, active engagement between the NGOs and the Gabon government—there was money, but no effective presence. Exacerbating the problem, between 2002 and 2011 a gold mining camp grew rapidly inside the 2,920-square-park, bringing in 6,000 people.
The mining population was trafficking in ivory, as well as “illegally panning for gold…[trafficking in] bush meat, drugs, arms, prostitutes, and, although the evidence is sketchy, children who were forced to work in the mines,” White says. In 2011 Richard Ruggiero and WCS scientist and then National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence J. The information galvanized ANPN—in conjunction with the army—to close the gold mining camps, and later that year all 6,000 people were summarily moved out of the park and buffer zone.
In June 2012 Gabon burned its ivory stockpile to signal its zero-tolerance policy for wildlife crime.
Furthermore, Wasser says, the majority of the tusks were “very small, which suggests they were poached from young elephants.
More than half the poachers, he says, are Cameroonians illegally crossing into the country, often armed with .458s. Fiona Maisels explains that part of the challenge of protecting forest elephants is that “you can’t see what is going on.
Gabon’s President Ali Bongo Ondimba spoke at the conference, vowing that upon his return home he would “sign a new law making elephant poaching and trafficking a crime, raising the minimum sentence for convicted poachers to three years, and requiring a life sentence in cases involving organized crime.” (As of now, the new law has not been signed). In a speech at the accompanying International Wildlife Trafficking Symposium at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), White detailed ANPN’s progress. White works hard to foster what he calls an “esprit de corps” for the wardens (“If your staff aren’t motivated, you’re not going to win”) by increasing salaries, offering retirement policies, and providing medical insurance for families.
Perhaps most important, White continues to work closely with Gabon’s president Ali Bongo Ondimba, whom he calls his greatest ally.
Gabon has worked so proactively in the past few years, White said in his ZLS speech, that the country is now considered a model for wildlife conservation in Africa. But there’s more to be done: “We’re far from getting to the level of performance that we need to be at to deal with the problem. Writing from the frontlines in Gabon, Richard Ruggiero made an impassioned plea: “I have had the good fortune to have lived with elephants for many years, and I think I have a fairly good grip on what they are, and maybe even how they think and feel.
They will take everything we stood back when ghex invaded Tibet time for the West to show its teeth.To protect these species.
I do like the idea of relocation, just not tampering with another ecosystem in the process.


Please please tell me that there will be a full program or video on the elephants of Samburu – this video was such a tease, I would really like to see more, more, more!!!
The US should get tough with China and at the very least threaten to stop importing their junk until they stop marketing products in not just elephants, but all the species that are endangered because of China — tigers, sun bears, turtles, snow leopards, the list is endless. A Voice for Elephants & RhinosElephants and rhinoceroses may be large, heavy and thick-skinned, but they are being threatened with extinction in the wild by poaching for their ivory or horn, and by human impact on their habitats. How Killing Elephants Finances Terror in AfricaArmed groups help fund operations by smuggling elephant ivory.
Alex Honnold makes his way up Yosemite’s El Capitan, without ropes or help from friends. Every week, embark with host Boyd Matson on an exploration of the latest discoveries and interviews with some of the most fascinating people on the planet, on National Geographic Weekend. Please check listings near you to find the best way to listen to National Geographic Weekend on radio, or listen below! If poachers continue to reduce valuable crown jewels of a country’s wildlife without fear of a very heavy price, including forfeiting their lives, what’s to curtail this ugly business?
If a species is a keystone species, that is as the tiger, is an instrumental regulator throughout an ecosystem, its loss would negatively impact the health of many species of flora & fauna very quickly, and especially considering its value relative to its low numbers in the first instance, and its niche cannot be replaced by another species in the second. About This BlogTune in every week, or any day, to enjoy National Geographic Weekend for two hours of international adventure and interviews with some of the most fascinating people on the planet. Follow Us on FacebookNG Weekend on Facebook: See photos, videos, and participate in conversation about each week's show. Radio ArchiveListen Now: Explore the full archive of National Geographic Weekend shows from 2007-2012. Explorers NewsletterSign Up Now: Stay in the know with a monthly email highlighting the exciting work of our explorers around the world.
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If anyone holding the copyright to any of the images on this website objects to their presence here please contact us and the offending images will be removed immediately. This might come as a surprise, since Gabon is a relatively small country, about the size of the United Kingdom. The most comprehensive report on their current numbers was a paper coauthored by Fiona Maisels, of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and biostatistician Samantha Strindberg, also with WCS; the study was published last year in PLOS ONE (“Devastating Decline of Forest Elephants in Central Africa”).
Minkebe is considered one of, if not the most, important forest park for elephants in Africa. Michael Fay assessed the situation in Minkebe, estimating that 50 to 100 elephants were being killed daily inside the park and the buffer zone. A rotating detachment of 120 soldiers is now based, semi-permanently, in the park to protect the remaining elephants.
According to Samuel Wasser—head of the Center for Conservation Biology, University of Washington, whose goal is to identify poaching hot spots in Africa by conducting DNA tests on officially seized ivory—some of those tusks originated in the Minkebe park region in northeast Gabon. The poachers go into the forest, kill the elephants, hide the ivory until nighttime, and sneakily go down the river and pay off authority figures as they go.


Ruggiero says he “sensed a significant increase in the state of awareness and will to address the poaching and trafficking crises. If we’re cited as a model, that’s because the other agencies around central Africa are so weak—and that’s why we have 58 percent of the [forest] elephants where we should have only 10 percent. Regional agreements throughout Central Africa to adopt and to enforce similar wildlife policies adopted and enforced throughout Southern Africa where elephants are, in fact, largely thriving. We have seen throughout history how tampering with nature in such a way upsets the natural balance. I too, think like Doug Williams that to put them into other parks around the world is a great idea. Tagging all the elephants is not an impossible task and when this is done it will greatly reduce poaching. Talking about anything else other than pointing the finger directly at China’s carving factories accomplishes nothing to help these hapless animals. Bloggers and commenters are required to observe National Geographic's community rules and other terms of service.
Honnold plans to free solo Taipei 101, the world’s 5th tallest building, this spring. The exact date of China’s first skiers is debatable, but Mark Jenkins tells Boyd that today, tribes in the Altay Mountains practice an ancient type of skiing that they use for traveling, hunting, and occasionally, getting air off jumps. But unlike airplanes, once submarines are as far from sea-level as they can go, they act as a window to a world full of strange animal life. Since leaving the military, Mander has applied the skills he acquired in war to protect animals to start the International Anti-Poaching Foundation. We should invest whatever’s available to insure tigers survive, and for this reason give it extra priority not less. Nearly 90 percent of the nation consists of rain forest, and though Gabon’s rain forests constitute only a fraction of the continent’s, they shelter close to a remarkable 60 percent of Africa’s remaining forest elephants. Today—almost unimaginably—the number has fallen to roughly 12,000, and it’s still dropping.
To save them from ourselves is not only biologically essential, it should be one of humankind’s greatest endeavors—an effort that would require a heroic and selfless mission. Interesting that in the Chobe area of Botswana, the issue is too many elephants within the fragile environment.
Journalists Bryan Christy and Aidan Hartley take viewers undercover as they investigate the criminal network behind ivory’s supply and demand. Submarine pilot and National Geographic Explorer Erika Bergman shares what life is like 2,100 feet under the sea off of Honduras’ Caribbean coast.
He tells Boyd that he regularly takes the elevator to the observation decks of tall buildings whenever he travels, but this time, he will use the building’s window sills as hand and foot holds and will reach the top floor under his own power.
Dungey says that people should try to find out about recycling opportunities before the needles start to fall off. Significantly, the government of Gabon has increased ANPN’s budget from one million dollars to 18 million annually. China changed its culture and demand when it made foot binding and poaching pandas illegal.




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