At Ulusaba we are lucky enough to be located in a Big 5 area where there is a healthy population of elephants, but after 15 years of relative calm, the market for ivory is on the rise once again.General Manager, Karl Langdon, gives us an important update on the state of the South African elephant population.
The key areas that are threatening the survival and well-being of elephants are:
- Escalated poaching, illegal killing and the commercial trade in ivory and meat.
- Demands of rapidly growing human populations and poverty.
- Increasing loss and fragmentation of natural habitats and lack of land-use planning.
- Rising conflict with humans over shrinking resources.
The rapid growth of the Chinese economy has created a growing middle class who are interested in luxury goods such as ivory, rhino horn and pangolin scales. This increased desire for these animal products, plus the increasing number of people living in poverty in Africa provides an incentive and a channel for this growing market.
The unchecked growth of human populations is the root cause of the decline in wild fauna and flora across the planet, which also affects elephants and their habitats. The high demand for raw materials by developed countries such as timber, minerals, gems stones and even ivory, alongside the need for basic resources including water, food, shelter and fuelwood for human populations in developing countries are resulting in the rapid depletion of natural resources and the destruction of ecosystems. Intensified by poverty and civil unrest, the loss and fragmentation of natural habitats is also causing rising conflict between elephants and people over diminishing resources.
The impact of poaching and conflict is greater than the number of tusks recovered and more than the sum of elephants shot or speared, it causes the break-down of the very fabric of elephant society, the death of an experienced matriarch in a herd causes a knock-on effect impacting the survival of generations.
We are lucky that the elephant population living near Ulusaba has so far remained largely unaffected, which is largely due to the type of vegetation and two perennial rivers that run through the south-south-west corner of the reserve. One of the main reasons that the elephant population has continued to thrive is the result of both time and money that Ulusaba and the Sabi Sands Wildtuin has put towards conservation and anti-poaching efforts. Through initiatives such as the Guest Conservation Contribution, guests are helping us contribute financially to anti-poaching initiatives to secure the long term survival of endangered and compromised animal species.