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The forest elephant population in Gabon, Central Africa, has decreased by 80% in the last decade.
In 2004, scientists visited Gabon’s Minkebe National Park to determine the elephant population. They counted the number of excrement piles they found along 43 transects, or paths used to monitor the activity of a species. They repeated the procedure ten years later by adding 66 transects. Based on the data, the number of elephants in the park decreased from 35,000 to 7,000.
Results of the investigation suggest that forest elephants are in greater danger than people think. Also, sanctuaries such as Minkebe National Park cannot guarantee protection of animals because of the invasion of poachers, or illegal animal hunters.
The poachers responsible for the elephant deaths were speculated to come from the neighboring country of Cameroon. Scientists based this suspicion on three facts. First, one of the Cameroon’s roads is only 6.1 kilometers from the park. Second, the country is known to participate in the illegal ivory trade, which involves slaughtering elephants. Third, 6,000 illegal immigrants, most of whom are Cameroonians, were deported from an illegal gold mining camp located in the park’s center.
Despite the Gabon forest elephant’s declining population, scientists believe that reducing demand for ivory can help save the species. Elephants are killed mainly for the ivory in their tusks since ivory is used in making products such as accessories. In addition, recognizing forest elephants as critically endangered can also help preserve the endangered species since more policies can be implemented to protect them.