While Africans decry western attempts to help manage their rich set of endangered animals, the latest stats out of Mozambique suggest aggressive western intervention is necessary before the animals are extinct.
The U.S. based Wildlife Conservation Society said Tuesday that in the past five years, poachers have killed nearly half of Mozambique's elephants for their ivory. The stunning loss highlights a fundamental lack of authority over the rich wildlife and powerful temptations by poachers to aggressively fight any anti-poaching efforts.
The Mozambique government-backed survey showed a dramatic 48 percent decline in elephant numbers, from just over 20,000 to an estimated 10,300, the WCS said in their report.
"This decline is due to rampant elephant poaching in the country's most important elephant populations," the statement said.
Remote northern Mozambique, which includes the Niassa national Reserve, was the hardest hit. The area is difficult to police and yet has some of the richest stocks of wildlife. The area accounted for 95 percent of elephant deaths, reducing the population from an estimated 15,400 to an estimated 6,100, nearly 1/3rd the original total.
The survey, conducted via planes and helicopters, found that in some parts of the country nearly half the elephants seen were already dead.
Africa currently sees approximately 30,000 elephants killed illegally each year to fuel the ivory trade, mainly to China and other Asian countries. China has notoriously refused to confront the issue despite its terrible ecological consequences.
A total of only 470,000 wild elephants remain in Africa, according to a count by the NGO Elephants Without Borders.
The stark picture for the survival of Africa's elephants raises the question: Should western governments and organizations take over the management of such reserves?
Such plans would likely result in significant elephant and rhino stocks being moved to locations such as Texas, where they would be free of poachers. Such plans, which are opposed by most Africans on cultural and property rights grounds, appear to be the only viable way preserve the at-risk species in light of the latest statistics.