The Impacts and Drivers of Commercial Trade on African Elephants

A Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Seminar Series featuring George Wittemyer, Dept. of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, Colorado State University

Wednesday, February 19, 2014
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
2320 Life Sciences Building

Co-Sponsored by the La Kretz Center for California Conservation Science

Sustainable utilization of wildlife species provides financial returns and incentives to manage and conserve effectively. When wildlife are commercially traded, this model is at risk with high value species being prone to overharvesting. The illicit wildlife trade of commercially valuable species has reached alarming levels globally, extirpating populations and threatening species persistence. As a primary driver of biodiversity decline, quantifying illegal harvest is essential for conservation but notoriously difficult. Using detailed demographic data from an individually based study of 934 African elephants in Samburu, Kenya, I will present research that explores the drivers and demographic repercussions of illegal killing on this system. During periods when ivory price was low, declines in local economic activity (livestock prices), but not macroeconomic indices, were associated with increased human wounding of elephants and adult elephant mortality. Using a probabilistic determination of cryptic mortality based on carcass ratios, illegal killing rates in Samburu spiked with black-market ivory prices and increased seizures of ivory destined for China. Using carcass ratios from multiple populations on the continent indicates the species is currently in decline due to ivory poaching, suggestion current ivory demand exceeds natural supply.

Host: Jamie Lloyd-Smith 

Refreshments will be served at 11:40 a.m.

Sponsor(s): La Kretz Center for California Conservation Science