Convention on Migratory Species offers a good chance for elephants
It is almost a bromide today that elephants have a unique ecological role, and that without them whole landscapes would change dramatically.
In Africa’s tropical forests, for example, more than 40 tree species could come into trouble if their seeds are not dispersed by elephants. Similarly, the vegetation of savannah areas changes drastically if elephants are reduced below their natural abundance. Without elephants the open savannah turns into bushland and many species lose their natural homes.
With changes in the animal kingdom, whole ecosystems change, and so the natural services offered by these systems change as well or even disappear. Such ecosystem services like clean water and air, decomposition of wastes and pollutants, and collection and storage of carbon, just to name a few, have been the free-from-nature foundation of human livelihoods forever.
While it would be wrong to believe that humans anywhere in the world do not depend on biodiversity, the poorer and closer to nature communities live, the more they depend directly on the biodiversity and its ecosystem services.
For smart economists it is also a bromide that loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services, including the loss of species and their habitats, is a very costly undertaking.
Elephants are no exception.
In fact, elephants are “keystone species,” a term that describes species whose natural abundance is indicative of the natural well-being of its environment. The welfare of keystone species, like elephants, are indicators for the well-being of the whole ecosystem, which is why they are often seen as the keepers of their habitats, and of the ecosystem services that humans depend on.
Still today, many governments ride roughshod over elephant and other wildlife conservation needs in favor of short-term economic gains.
Elephant ivory, for example, can bring large profit margins for a few people, particularly in rich market countries; however insatiable demand for ivory is driving the poaching of ten-thousands of elephants a year, which will generate multiple economic losses for the range states in which elephants live.
Poaching eventually wipes out whole elephant populations, which then leads to losses in ecosystem services, which, in turn leads to economic losses many times greater than the value of the ivory for which the elephants were killed.
Recently, the new Secretary General of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) Bradnee Chambers, reminded countries of their obligations to protect elephants:
“CMS has a strong mandate to conserve endangered migratory species and such as elephants. Most of the Range States of the two species of African Elephant are Parties to CMS and are therefore obliged to try to improve these animals’ conservation status, and maintain and restore their habitats. If the population of African Elephants in this region were put on CMS Appendix I, it would commit parties and all Range State Parties to afford the species strict protection, including the prohibition of all taking. “
Let's all follow Bradnee and ask our governments to put his recommendation into action, including his call for an Appendix I listing of elephants at CMS.
It is high time to save the elephants, for their sake and for our own.