Imagine being the largest land mammal and then being forced to make a living in a most unforgiving terrain: The Sahara Desert. That is what a subspecies of the African Elephant ( Loxodonta Africana) has to deal with all it’s life. These animals have adapted themselves to this harsh and hot environment by perambulating along a circular route of 32,000 Kms around Gourma. They move from one source of water to another to stave off dehydration and now number only around 350 individuals. At one point this population was part of the great elephant herds that spanned all of North Africa. With the loss of habitat and continuous threats of poaching, the Atlas Mountain populations were decimated by the 1970’s and now this small group is severely threatened.
Note the gruesome killing just for the tusk. You will find better pictures here.
The range of these elephants as pictured below, rest entirely in a very water straitened area of Mali, bordering Burkina Faso. A great essay by Anthony Ham on the issue can be found here.
WILD foundation has taken on the task of trying to provide some help and their success so far has been quite inspiring. Until 2014, only 8 elephants had been killed by poachers and lawless vigilantes, and “jihadis”. This was all done by carefully crafting the project to help the people living in the area too. More from Dr. Susan Canney here:
We cannot know how long these efforts will survive. However, it is imperative that they do. Not only do they save a population at risk but they provide us templates for future conservation efforts. These are all losing battles perhaps, as some species and populations cannot survive the human-caused extinction but we have got to try. Kudos to those who do!