African conservationists decry rising threats to elephants, cheetahs

Jul 27, 2020 | News


There is a need for African governments and conservation partners to act on emerging threats to elephants and cheetahs including pathogens, human-wildlife conflict and recurrent droughts, conservationists said on Sunday.

Winnie Kiiru, senior technical advisor at Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI) said the iconic mammals were facing new human and environmentally induced threats to their survival, hence the need for retooling of conservation efforts.

“The emerging challenge of climate change, invasive species, new pathogens, wildfires, long and unpredictable drought cycles, erratic rainfall patterns pose a serious threat to the survival of African elephants,” Kiiru said at a virtual briefing in Nairobi.

She said that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted negatively on the protection of African elephants and carnivores amid the decline in tourism revenue.

“National governments have reoriented funding priority to the public health crisis created by COVID-19,” said Kiiru.

She said that African governments should explore domestic resource mobilization to revitalize elephants and cheetahs conservation programs amid threats of poaching and shrinking habitat linked to population growth.

Statistics from the global conservation body, World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) indicate that Africa’s elephant population stood at about 415, 000 in 2019 while nearly 15,000 die annually due to poaching and natural causes.

Kiiru said that bans on global ivory markets coupled with home-grown conservation measures have stabilized the population of African elephants.

Cosmas Wambua, assistant director of Action for Cheetahs in Kenya, said, “The population of African cheetahs, estimated at 7,000, is in a race for survival amid mounting threats like poaching, habitat loss and fragmentation, diseases and loss of prey base,” said Wambua.

He said that research and community engagement is key to revamping conservation initiatives targeting African cheetahs.

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