Saving the Elephants of Babile

In Eastern Ethiopia, the Babile Elephant Sanctuary covers an area of almost 7,000km2. One of the largest protected areas in the country, it was established specifically to protect the resident elephant population, which is suspected to be a distinct sub-species due to many years of isolation. The Sanctuary itself is spectacular:  huge gorges giving way to open plains and rocky outcrops, meandering river beds which offer permanent water and, in the south and the east, a drier almost-desert like landscape.

Unfortunately, all is not well in Babile. It is divided between two regions, Oromia and Ethiopia Somali Region, and the pre-exisitng tension between the two groups of people inhabiting these regions is now heightened as they establish permanent settlements inside Babile. Somali’s tend to be semi-nomadic pastoralists but their encampments are becoming more permanent and the number of livestock they keep is increasing, leading to over-grazing and colonisation by non-native plant species. In addition, the Oromia people are establishing farms along some of the waterways, which is likely to give rise to more human-elephant conflict in the future.  Already, the elephants are under pressure because of grazing competition with camels and goats, but also because of poaching: at least 44 elephants were killed in 2012-2013. Such losses – possibly 25% of the population – are clearly unsustainable. It is no over-statement to say that Babile’s elephants risk being wiped out within a few years.

All is not lost however. The Born Free Foundation, through its generous Bloody Ivory supporters, has been funding the implementation of an 'Emergency Action Plan for the Babile Elephant Sanctuary' by the Ethiopian government. Conservation actions began at the start of 2014 and are already having obvious results:

  • Ranger patrols now operate 24 hours a day – thanks to better field equipment, food and logistics
  • A census of the elephants has been conducted – more than 200 individuals were counted and the survey, being on foot, was unlikely to have found every herd
  • A notorious poacher, who had escaped from prison, was arrested by Babile Game Scouts
  • Stakeholder meetings have begun, aiming to engage the local communities and tackle the issues faced by both people and wildlife

There are no quick solutions to problems as acute as those faced in Babile. It is likely to take years to even stabilise the situation, but this is a process that thanks to our supporters has now been initiated. With the sharp downward trend showing signs of slowing, Babile's elephants now have some breathing space and their caretakers - all of us - have the opportunity to ensure longer term measures are put in place.

Donate to help Babile's elephants

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