Research conducted by the University of British Columbia showed a very large wild elephant decrease in the Eastern Congo due to human activities. Forest elephants in the Okapi Faunal Reserve declined at least fifty percent in the last ten years due to civil war and ivory poaching.
“The war in the Democratic Republic of Congo had a large impact on elephant populations, including those in parks and reserves,” said lead study author Rene Beyers. (Source: UBC) It has also devastated hippos and killed many primates and monkeys for the bush meat trade. Of course many human lives have also been lost. One estimate put the total at over two and a half million people, just since 2004.
Conflict minerals such as cassiterite, wolframite, coltan, and gold are extracted from the Eastern Congo, and mining damages natural habitats. It also contributes to the destruction of wildlife because the militias kill animals for food. Animals are eaten to sustain the militias and sold to fund their operations.
Before the civil war there were about 22,000 elephants in the Eastern Congo and now there are only about 6,000. Two things that have been beneficial for the remaining elephants are the presence of a dedicated government field staff and international conservation organizations. The World Conservation Society, for example is studying elephants in the Congo to help conserve them.
Image Credit: Rene Beyers