Mission: Raise funds for elephant conservation
Species: African elephant
Location: Colchester Zoo with funds being donated to African elephant conservation
Amount donated: £1,600 in 2008 funds donated to the Elephant Orphanage Project in Zambia.
Background: In November 2007, Colchester Zoo sadly lost its female African elephant, Rosa. In her memory, Action for the Wild set up the Rosa Memorial Fund to raise funds for African elephant conservation in the wild.
The elephant is the largest terrestrial animal and has been the subject of considerable research. Our knowledge of the status of African elephants across their range has been progressively improving since the mid-1990s. Preliminary genetic evidence suggests that there may be at least two species of African elephants, namely the savanna elephant and the forest. A third species, the West African elephant, has also been hypothesized. The African elephant is listed in CITES Appendix I and as Near Threatened by the IUCN red list, on the basis of an inferred decline of 25% between 1979 and 2007.
African elephants currently occur in 37 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. They are known to have become nationally extinct in Burundi in the 1970s, in The Gambia in 1913, in Mauritania in the 1980s, and in Swaziland in 1920, where they were reintroduced in the 1980s and 1990s. Although large tracts of continuous elephant range remain in parts of Central, Eastern and Southern Africa, elephant distribution is becoming increasingly fragmented across the continent.
Poaching for ivory and meat has traditionally been the major cause of the species' decline. Although illegal hunting may remain a significant factor in some areas, particularly in Central Africa, currently the most important perceived threat is the loss and fragmentation of habitat caused by ongoing human population expansion and land conversion. A specific manifestation of this trend is human-elephant conflict, which further aggravates the threat to elephant populations.
Conservation measures to protect the species usually include habitat management and protection through law enforcement. Successful management at the site level can result in the build-up of high elephant densities. This is often perceived as a threat to their local habitats, as well as to other species and to elephants themselves. Management interventions to reduce elephant numbers and local densities have been limited and most recently been undertaken through contraception or translocation. Culling has not been performed as a population management option since Zimbabwe discontinued the practice in 1988 and South Africa did likewise in 1994.
An increasing number of transboundary elephant populations are co-managed through the collaboration of relevant neighbouring range States. Large-scale conservation interventions are also planned through the development of conservation and management strategies at the national and regional level.