"The fact that [these elephants] have survived in this incredibly harsh environment, it shows their incredible intelligence," Canney told The Dodo. "They have learned how to pick their way through this environment to get what they need during certain times of the year." But now, she says, they face a newer threat.
Before 2012, poaching was quite limited in Mali, says Canney. But due to political unrest in Libya and Algeria, many mercenaries or jihadists fled to Mali, creating a chaotic arena that was ripe for ivory trafficking to flourish.
Eighty-three were gunned down last year, with 119 killed in total since January 2012, including 50 adult males, 50 adult females, 4 juvenile males and 3 juvenile females.
Canney says they are usually shot with semi-automatic weapons.
Canney has not been able to visit the elephant range in northern Mali since November of 2011 due to the threat of kidnapping. So the Mali Elephant Project (MEP), in partnership with the International Conservation Fund of Canada, launched an information network, recruiting some 600 young men around northern Mali - teenagers and twenty-somethings, who work together as part of an information tree. The young men watch over their local communities and report poaching incidents to a field manager. That manager, in turn, provides the latest information on the elephant killings to Canney.