Photo Essay

Kruger’s Giants

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During the twentieth century, African elephant populations plummeted by nearly 90 percent from historic estimates of nearly five million in the early 1900s, to only about 450,000 individual elephants today. Man’s desire for ivory has been a driver in the decline, but so is habitat loss due to human population growth. All over Africa, human-elephant interactions are a tense affair, with elephants seen as crop raiders and pests by local peoples.

Their continued survival depends on the conservation efforts of rangers, conservation experts, local peoples, and governments worldwide. The 1980s saw a dramatic decline in African elephants, as poaching halved the population. With the rise of Asia’s middle class, we are now entering a second wave of mass poaching throughout Africa.

For now, the elephants of South Africa’s Kruger National Park seem to be immune to poaching, even as the park fights rhino poachers daily. However, the threat to the park’s elephants looms on the horizon. Indeed, Kruger’s 2012 zoning plan calls for buffer zones along the “eastern boundary to address rhino poaching (and possible future elephant poaching) emanating from Mozambique.”

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