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Ivory Poachers Are Not The Only Humans Killing Elephants

<p> David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust </p>

It's been two years since our iworry campaign released a report warning the world that one elephant was being killed every 15 minutes by ivory poachers. Since then, we've seen the global public and several governments heed our warning and take action to raise awareness and stem the killings.

But ivory poaching isn't the only threat facing our iconic wildlife. In fact, in July 2015, the DSWT / Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Anti-Poaching Teams arrested loggers, bush meat poachers, livestock owners and charcoal burners, as well as ivory poachers. None of these other threats might have the same visual impact as that of a poached elephant. But they are just as deadly.

Human wildlife conflict

As human populations expand and communities move into habitats previously home to wildlife, animals and humans are increasingly coming into conflict over space and food. Farmers can lose crops, property and even lives - it's said that some 500 people are killed each year by elephants - and, frequently, wild animals including elephants are killed in retaliation.

A DSWT Aerial Surveillance pilot spots illegal livestock grazing - a huge contributor to the degradation of Kenya's National Parks. Photo: David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

In May 2014, we rescued a tiny baby elephant called Mbegu after she was speared and pelted with stones in a revenge attack by an angry community following an attack by an elephant which killed a local woman. Separated from her herd in the fracas that ensued, Mbegu was targeted and only saved thanks to the quick thinking and intervention of a community warden.

Photo: David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Thankfully, Mbegu has fully healed and is now an integral member of our Nairobi Nursery herd. And, with help from Dr. Lucy King and Save the Elephants' Elephant & Bees Project, we've now built a beehive fence project in Tsavo to prevent future crop raiding by elephants - and future conflict. The fencing is lined with suspended beehives filled with buzzing bees that deter elephants from crossing the line, sending them running the other way, unharmed, having caused no damage to crops.

As well as generating an income for community land owners who manage the hives, this new initiative has already proven successful in reducing incidents of elephants "trespassing" onto community farm land. A win for people and animals!

Bushmeat poaching

Commercial hunting for the meat of wild animals has led to widespread local declines of species in Africa. Hunters often use snares aiming to trap and kill smaller wild animals, but even with as little as a 5 percent success rate, just 1,000 of these snares can capture 18,250 animals in a year – decimating wildlife populations at an unsustainable rate.

Snares confiscated from the DSWT/KWS Anti-Poaching Teams. Photo: David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Regularly found in trees frequented for food by giraffes, or close by paths regularly used by other animals, snares are made of metal wires, nylon line or vegetable fibers and act as a deadly noose around a wild animal's leg or neck. They come in all sizes and account for the destruction of anything moving in the bush from birds to baby elephants. The destructive power of snares can be seen when we treated an infant elephant in February 2015 for an injury caused by snare wound which had become tightly wound around its leg.

WARNING: Graphic image

DSWT/KWS Vets remove a snare from a wild baby elephant. Photo: David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Last year, we removed more than 2,600 snares, preventing thousands of infant elephants and other wildlife suffering from a horrendous and excruciating death.

Habitat destruction

In the last 25 years, the world lost a forested area the size of South Africa and elephants, especially, have lost key habitats and migratory corridors to development. Considering elephants can roam up to 80 kilometers (approx. 50 miles) a day, the impact is huge. From charcoal burning, which involves cutting down and burning mature trees, to increased traffic in wildlife areas, the impact can be destructive; in fact, already this year, along the Mombasa-Nairobi transport at least seven elephants have lost their lives due to accidents on the road and railway, including two young bull elephants which were struck by a train near Mtito Andei.

Sacks of charcoal confiscated by DSWT/KWS Anti-Poaching Teams. Photo: David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Elephant underpasses and raised railways are some of the unique and innovative solutions to these deadly transport accidents, but equally important is keeping those vital and untouched ecosystems and habitats protected - something we're helping to do through our Saving Habitats initiative where we have secured, saved and protected over 110,000 acres of land before it is lost forever.

Orphaned elephants roam through the Kibwezi Forest, protected by the DSWT. Photo: David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Today, thankfully, many citizens across the world know about the plight facing elephants at the hands of ivory poaching. But every year, elephants die from simple tragedies - hit by a train or caught up in a dispute over land.

We're doing all we can to keep the iconic species safe from all of these threats and you can find out more about our work our projects to protect elephants, wildlife and habitats at: www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org