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Friday, 2 September 2016

Soon The Elephants May Be Gone...


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'Our Living Dinosaurs'


There are far fewer African elephants than we thought, study shows



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Linyanti Swamp, Botswana (CNN)Scanning Botswana's remote Linyanti swamp from the low flying chopper, elephant ecologist Mike Chase can't hide the anxiety and dread as he sees what he has seen too many times before. 
"I don't think anybody in the world has seen the number of dead elephants that I've seen over the last two years," he says. 
From above, we spot an elephant lying on its side in the cracked river mud. From a distance it could be mistaken for a resting animal. 
But the acrid stench of death hits us before we even land. 
Up close, it is a horror. 
Chase, the founder of Elephants Without Borders (EWB), is the lead scientist of the Great Elephant Census, (GEC) an ambitious project to count all of Africa's savannah elephants -- from the air.
Before the GEC, total elephant numbers were largely guesswork. But over the past two years, 90 scientists and 286 crew have taken to the air above 18 African countries, flying the equivalent of the distance to the moon -- and a quarter of the way back -- in almost 10,000 hours.  
Prior to European Colonization, scientists believe that Africa may have held as many as 20 million elephants; by 1979 only 1.3 million remained -- and the census reveals that things have gotten far worse. 

Estimated trends in Africa elephant populations in the Great Elephant Census (GEC) study areas, by country for sites with historical data available. Results are based on 1,000 Monte Carlo replicates for each country. Dark shaded area indicates ±1 SD; light shaded area indicates 95 percent confidence interval. Tick marks on x-axis indicate dates of data points used in model; dates may be perturbed slightly to prevent overlap. 'W. Africa' refers to the WAP ecosystem in Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger. Graphic: Chase, et al., 2016 / PeerJ


According to the GEC, released Thursday in the open-access journal PeerJ, Africa's savannah elephant population has been devastated, with just 352,271 animals in the countries surveyed -- far lower than previous estimates. 


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