Crisis point – Conservation

The Born Free Foundation is taking action to fight the illegal ivory trade and protect elephants

born_free35 years ago Africa had more than one million elephants. Now numbers have plummeted to fewer than 475,000 due to uncontrolled poaching for ivory. Each year it is estimated that 36,000 elephants are killed for their tusks, fuelled by the upsurge in demand for ivory in China and the Far East. Elephant poaching and the illegal trade in ivory is a multi-million dollar business, often run by highly organised criminal networks. The Born Free Foundation is committed to protecting elephants and fighting the illegal ivory trade on every level.

Their wildlife charity supports anti-poaching patrols across Africa including Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Ethiopia and recently, Burkina Faso in West Africa. Here, Born Free funds rangers in Park W, where poaching is at crisis point.

On a recent Born Free visit to Park W, a loud gunshot rang through the trees while the team were inspecting the macabre remains of a recently killed elephant. The moment highlighted the truth behind poaching: it is real, is happening right now, and is threatening the long-term survival of elephants across Africa.

LAST STRONGHOLD

There are fewer than 7000 elephants remaining in the whole of West Africa. If poaching is not brought under control there will soon be no elephants left to protect. Their last remaining stronghold in the region is Burkina Faso, which has around 4000 individuals. But these elephants are being relentlessly gunned down by ruthless criminals, armed with sophisticated weaponry. The vulnerable elephants in Park W are losing their lives and so are the 25 brave, but underfunded, rangers of L’Équipe des Éléphants trying to protect the animals over 2500 sq km. Team Elephant’s Head Ranger, Daouda, is very inspiring. He speaks with unrivalled passion about his mission to protect Park W’s elephants. However, his team of brave men are ill-equipped to face the heavily armed gangs invading the Park unless they begin to receive urgent support.

Born Free has provided some basic support – items such as boots and GPS units. They are now reaching remote parts of the Park and have arrested poachers and closed down poachers’ camps. A little support can make an enormous difference.

You can help
Born Free’s support has made a huge difference, but more is needed. The team urgently need radio equipment, so they can seek help if they spot poachers or are injured. They currently have to use a bicycle to travel up to 100km for help – by which time it is usually too late. Can you help? Please contact Born Free’s Programmes Manager Shelley Waterland on shelley@bornfree.org.uk or visit www.bornfree.org.uk to find out more.