What Does Elephant Poaching Have to Do With Infant Mortality?

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Jan. 3 2014 12:20 PM

What Does Elephant Poaching Have to Do With Infant Mortality?

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A bull elephant bathes and drinks water on the northern shores of Lake Edward inside Virunga National Park, on Aug. 9, 2013, in Ishango, Democratic Republic of Congo.

Photo by Brent Stirton/Getty Images for WWF-Canon

A recent report prepared by three NGOs for an anti-poaching summit in Botswana, as reported by Reuters, identifies an interesting correlation between human wellbeing and levels of elephant poaching. Using data from 42 sites throughout Africa monitored by a U.N.-backed program found that “Human infant mortality, which is interpreted as a proxy for poverty, is the single strongest site-level correlate ... with sites suffering from higher levels of poverty experiencing higher levels of elephant poaching."

The report by TRAFFIC, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species suggests that “there may be a greater incentive to facilitate or participate in the illegal killing of elephants in areas where human livelihoods are insecure.” It also suggests that people who live in poaching areas are deriving little benefit from the booming global ivory trade. The areas were the correlation was shown most dramatically were in Guinea, Mozambique, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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At the national level, the most significant correlation was poor governance as measured by Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.

Driven largely by demand from Asia, rates of elephant poaching have risen dramatically to about 5 percent of the total population, greater than the animal’s birthrate.

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

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