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African conservationists raise alarm over surging human-elephant conflicts

Sub-Saharan African countries should invest in innovative wildlife conservation models to stem the escalating human-elephant conflicts driven by competition for space, campaigners said on Friday, November 13, 2020.

John Scanlon
John Scanlon, CEO of the EPI Foundation

John Scanlon, CEO of Elephant Protective Initiative (EPI) Foundation, said that urbanisation, shrinking habitat and climatic shocks were behind the spike in violent encounters between African communities and the iconic mammal.

“People and elephants are increasingly competing for land and dwindling natural resources,’’ Scanlon said in a statement released in Nairobi, Kenya.

“In recent years we have witnessed a dramatic increase in human-elephant conflict across the continent.

If these conflicts cannot be satisfactorily resolved, the long-term prospects for elephants are bleak,’’ he added.

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Scanlon said that Africa’s elephant population estimated at 400,000 is currently grappling with an existential threat to survival linked to poaching, human encroachment on their habitat, pandemics and climatic stresses.

He said that conservationists have rallied governments, industry and civil society to share knowledge, experience and technologies required to mitigate conflicts between communities and the giant land mammal.

The EPI Foundation in its recently launched Vision 2030 called upon African elephant range states to promote harmonious coexistence between communities and the iconic species.

According to the EPI Vision 2030 document, Africa’s growing human population combined with economic growth, infrastructure development and conversion of land to agriculture presents new threats to the survival of elephants.

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“With these come an ever-increasing risk of escalating human-wildlife conflict, as people and elephants compete for land and natural resources,’’ said EPI Foundation.

The lobby said that COVID-19 pandemic could derail efforts to protect African elephants from external threats amid slump in tourism earnings.

African leaders have endorsed the EPI Foundation’s latest call to action to enhance survival of elephants amid human-induced and climatic threats.

Winnie Kiiru, a technical advisor at EPI, said that political goodwill coupled with innovative financing, research and greater community engagement is key to minimise human-elephant conflicts in the sub-Saharan African region. 

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