The Indianapolis Zoo has received a copy of the 2012 annual report of the Tarangire Elephant Project, an organization that the Zoo has supported for over six years with a total of over three million dollars in funding. The news is both good and bad, with the Project’s head, Dr. Charles Foley, reporting that elephant poaching is again becoming a major threat to the elephants of East Africa. This echoes information we’ve also received from Iain and Oria Douglas-Hamilton of Save the Elephants who are again, like Foley, fighting to keep elephants alive and safe from ivory poachers.
Dr. Foley reports that many thousands of elephants are being poached annually and a record amount of illegally traded ivory from Tanzanian elephants is being seized after being transported through Tanzanian and Kenyan ports. Further, “land loss continues at an ever-alarming rate, and large areas of wildlife habitat outside of Tanzania’s protected areas are now under threat from massive agricultural expansion, particularly in the central part of the country.”
This is an very important topic, one that also will be covered in a new PBS/National Geographic special airing on February 27, 2013. "Battle for the Elephants"
will detail the slaughter of elephants to meet the increasing demands for ivory coming from the expanding Chinese market. Mongabay's Rhett Butler recently conducted an interview with Bryan Christy
, whose article in National Geographic Magazine, Blood Ivory
, was an important resource for the TV special. The World Wildlife Fund
and many other conservation organizations are calling attention to this terrible problem.
Not all is bad news, however; the report also says, “Fortunately the Tanzanian government is stepping up its anti-poaching efforts in some of the hardest hit parts of the country, though poaching is certain to continue unless the current high demand for ivory can be curbed.” The Project hired 15 new Village Game Scouts, raising the total to 25 Game Scouts in seven villages who patrol in and around the Park protecting its elephants.
The elephants that Dr. Foley and his team track in Tarangire National Park are doing well with 67 new calves born last year. Also, they made progress in protecting the northern elephant migration route, and they set up a new Wildlife Management Area that will protect much of the elephant migration corridor of this elephant group they’ve been studying for the past 20 years. The Project also continues to collect long-term data on the demography of the Tarangire elephants.
There is exciting news for 2013 – Dr. Foley will implement his plan to protect a new elephant migration corridor linking the Ruaha ecosystem with the Katavi ecosystem in central Tanzania. This route is particularly important since it links two large, well-protected elephant populations and forms the major link between the central and western populations in Tanzania. This new project was made possible through the Indianapolis Zoo’s special donation of $90,000 it raised on parking for the 2012 Super Bowl.