West Africa’s elephants have been among the hardest hit by the recent elephant- poaching crisis – but there is hope. Over the course of 2017, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali and Guinea joined the 15 African member States of the Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI) – bringing the total to 18 member states.
Elephants are still found in 54 separate ranges in West Africa, 35 in the forest zone and 19 in the savanna and Sahel. However, in the last decade, it is estimated that West Africa has lost more than 90% of its elephant range to a lethal combination of poaching, habitat destruction and protracted civil conflicts. In many cases, diminished elephant herds have been pushed into isolated and vulnerable pockets. Studies show that almost two-thirds of West African elephant herds consist of only around 100 elephants.
Commitment to the EPI will see these West African nations working together for the implementation of a sub-regional approach to elephant conservation, which recognizes that the scourge of poaching is common to all countries – and solutions, too, must transgress international borders. Like their fellow EPI member states and their partners, these countries recognize that, for long term conservation successes to be felt, it is vital that elephant conservation efforts are linked to overall national development plans and the development of sustainable livelihoods, without trade in ivory, for those who live alongside elephants.
The contribution of Mali, Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire to elephant protection issues around the continent is critical. “Francophone Africa is a vital cog in the wheel of elephant protection in Africa”, said John Stephenson, co-Secretariat of the EPI, “with three neighbouring Francophone countries joining the EPI in just one year, we look forward to a promising 2018 for Francophone Africa’s role in elephant conservation, and a valuable added force to the collective voice advocating for Africa’s elephant on the global stage.”