Ivory Poachers Blamed for 60% Slump in Tanzania Elephant Numbers

Tanzania’s elephant population declined 60 percent over the past five years, with an upsurge in poaching among the probable causes, the East African nation’s minister for natural resources and tourism said.

A census conducted between May and November 2014 found 43,330 of the animals in seven of the country’s ecosystems and national parks, compared with 109,000 in 2009, Lazaro Nyalandu said Tuesday in an e-mailed statement. The survey discovered 1,177 elephant carcasses, an unusually large number that suggests they didn’t die from natural causes, he said.

“It is highly likely that poaching is responsible for such high levels of deaths,” Nyalandu said. The “probable reason could be an increased demand for ivory, particularly in the Far East countries.”

Tanzania is the largest source of poached ivory and China is the biggest importer of smuggled tusks, the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency said in November.

Increased human settlement, agriculture and livestock grazing are also partly to blame for the falling elephant population, Nyalandu said. The government says it has established rapid response teams to tackle poaching in its parks.

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