Across Africa, we are losing small elephant populations at a distressing rate. In many places, particularly in West Africa, there are tiny populations of ‘ghost elephants’ often consisting of fewer than five individuals, too few to have a chance of long-term survival. They are often refugees in their own homelands, moving in secret between small patches of habitat.
They are being lost one-by-one to old age, or conflict with people. Sometimes human lives are also lost when there is conflict, particularly in communities that are not familiar with elephants and do not know how to behave around them. Often the last surviving elephants are wily old bulls, able to conceal themselves effectively, but with no chance of finding a mate.
There is no easy solution for ‘ghost elephants’. Darting and moving elephants to a secure location has been tried, in Ivory Coast for example, but capturing these elusive individuals is very difficult and there is no guarantee that they will remain wherever they are moved to. The best chance may be for governments to establish and secure large enough protected areas in the hope that these wandering elephants will find them and feel safe enough to settle and perhaps breed.
Read more in our 2022 End Year Report