A large herd comprising around 250 African Bush Elephants, Loxodonta africana, has been spotted close to the town of Rann in Borno State, northeastern Nigeria. The sighting was made from a helicopter operated by the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service that was delivering supplies in the area on 19 December 2019. Northeastern Nigeria was known to be home to several hundred Elephants until about ten years ago, when Boko Haram insurgents set up camps in the Sambisa Forest Game Reserve, a key environment and part of the annual migration route of the Elephants. In the decade since that time the area has been a subjected to repeated fighting between the insurgents and the Nigerian military, including aerial bombardments and extensive use of artillery, things generally thought to be adverse to Elephant survival. However the discovery of a large Elephant herd in Borno suggests that Elephants have not just survived in the area but flourished, with the discovery roughly doubling the known Elephant population of Nigeria, according to Tunde Marokinyo of Africa Nature Investors.
A large herd of African Bush Elephants, Loxodonta africana, spotted in Borno State, Nigeria, on 19 December 2019. United Nations Humanitarian Air Service
Elephants are considered to be threatened across Africa, due to a combination of hunting, principally for the value of their tusks, and habitat loss, with the population across the continent thought to have dropped from 3-5 million in 1900 to about 415 000 today, and about 50% of Elephant-suitable land having disappeared since 1970. The population of Elephants in Nigeria has not been surveyed properly in the last decade, due to the running civil war in the area, but is thought to have been subjected to heavy poaching, based upon seizures of ivory in other countries that is thought to have originated in Nigeria.
On Tuesday 24 December authorities in Vietnam revealed that they had confiscated 330 kg of ivory being smuggled in three shipping containers from Nigeria, along with 1700 kg of Pangolin scales, another lucrative, but illegal, wildlife product.
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