Fears Grow for Sierra Leone's Status as an Elephant Range State

A recent paper on the impact of civil war on mammals in Gola National Park in Sierra Leone confirms our worst fears for remaining elephant numbers in the country.

The situation was already dire when, in 2009, it became known that sometime between September and October poachers were thought to have wiped out the remainder of what was until then Sierra Leone’s largest known elephant population - in Outamba-Kilimi National Park, near the border with Guinea.

The next largest elephant population in the country was in the Gola National Park complex, but given the dramatic rise in poaching over the past few years and bearing in mind that the most recent estimate of 110 elephants dated back to a 1987 survey, hopes were not high that many of these remained.    

The results of the new survey, published in the January issue of Oryx, an international journal on conservation, confirm this population to have crashed – all that was found was “…a few signs…” of elephants in one area and even these were thought to be temporary residents, migrating in small numbers across a river from Liberia.

This brings confirmation of the loss of African elephants from yet another range country even closer, with implications not only for their range and numbers on a continental scale but additionally alarming from a regional perspective, given the few small and fragmented populations remaining in West Africa.

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