The African elephant is IUCN Red-listed as endangered in Central Africa; data from the last thirty years show a clear and constant decline. Gabon is an important stronghold with about 60% of the remaining forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis). This is, therefore, one of the key species that WCS Gabon focuses its efforts on.
The illegal killing of elephants for the ivory trade is the principle threat in the region. Nowadays, one elephant is killed every 15 minutes for its ivory. Elephant populations across Central Africa have taken a hammering over recent years, with a drop in numbers by about 40,000 elephants between 2010 and 2012. Similar trends are seen in the savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana), and if current rates of poaching continue one-fifth of Africa’s elephants could be illegally killed in the next ten years (2013-2023). Local extinctions of the forest elephant means losing their role as gardeners of the forest in shaping and engineering the forest ecosystem itself. They are essential for seed dispersal and the germination of canopy tree species, and they can even create and maintain forest clearings known as bais.
Due to the large tracts of continuous forest and relatively lower levels of poaching, compared with neighboring countries, Gabon probably still harbours a population of over 50,000 elephants. This is despite some parks having suffered severe losses; in Minkébé National Park approximately 2,100 elephants were lost yearly since 2004.
WCS works in a number of Gabon’s National Parks, where our key interventions are : law enforcement monitoring, assessing the status of the elephant populations and improving our understanding on their ecology, and providing direct protection through long-term field presence at key sites.