Habitat loss is the greatest threat to Asian elephants -- fragmentation has reduced some wild populations to the tens and hundreds.
To mark Endangered Species Day we are excited to partner with Dr. Shermin de Silva of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and Roots and Shoots and Emily Neil of the Born Free Foundation to help visualize CITES MIKE program data.
In this visualization we show that anthropogenic drivers were responsible for a substantial portion of elephant deaths recorded at MIKE sites. This data shows that while Asian elephants are killed illegally, it is rarely for their ivory.
Dr. de Silva writes, “The demographic consequences may be hidden, and take a long time coming but they can be insidious. Many elephant populations in Asia are already so fragmented that they number in the tens or hundreds. The way to recover these populations is to focus on improving the survival of females and calves, as well as their breeding rates, To do that, we need to address issues like land-use change alongside illegal trafficking.
Conservation efforts also need to place much greater emphasis on the distinct populations that constitute a species, and whether they are healthy, than on ballpark estimates of how many individuals of the species there are throughout their range. The idea of “demographic safe space” helps to identify which populations are healthy, and which ones aren’t.”