AWF Urges Moratorium on Sport Hunting of Elephants

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At a time when African elephants are facing extraordinary threats to their survival, AWF is urging governments that currently allow sport hunting of elephants to suspend such activities, and to enact a moratorium on elephant trophy hunting.

The call to halt elephant hunting comes just two weeks after a German hunter shot and killed allegedly one of Africa’s largest bull elephants in the Malipati safari area near Zimbabwe’s Gonerazhou National Park.

“At this time, when elephants are under siege from poachers and so many other threats, we should not be engaging in activities that result in additional mortalities and put additional pressures on the continental population,” said Dr. Philip Muruthi, African Wildlife Foundation’s vice president of species protection. “Our energies must be spent on preserving the life of this species, not destroying it.”

The sport-hunted elephant in Gonerazhou, which means “place of the elephant,” was one of the largest bulls spotted in the area in decades and, with tusks weighing in at a combined 120 lbs, it was also part of a rapidly shrinking pool of “big tuskers,” so called because of the exceptional length and weight of their tusks.

 “It has become extremely rare to see elephants with tusks of this size anymore,” explained Muruthi. “Elephants with big tusks are a target for both poachers and sport hunters. The relentless pursuit of these elephants, however, is impacting the gene pool as these bulls, once killed, can no longer spread their genes to the next generation.”

Recent censuses have revealed an unmistakable decline in the elephant population in many parts of Africa. In the past five years, 60 percent of Tanzania’s elephant population has disappeared, and more than 40 percent of Mozambique’s elephants have been killed. Between 2002 and 2013, 65 percent of Africa’s forest elephant population has been wiped out. In addition, elephants throughout Africa are threatened by rapid habitat loss, human-elephant conflict and poorly regulated hunting practices.

In addition to a moratorium on hunting, additional support is needed to increase protection on the ground for elephants and better manage the protected areas, corridors and dispersal areas they need to thrive. Zimbabwe maintains one of the highest elephant populations in Africa, and AWF has been operating in the Southern African country for more than a decade. Today it is working with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority to strengthen protected area management in Hwange and Mana Pools National Parks; build a foundation for collaboration on transboundary area conservation, as elephants and other species move freely across country borders; and support communities and land owners to secure lands for conservation.