Democracy Dies in Darkness

In Sight | Perspective

Inside the effort to save Africa’s elephant population

By Kenneth Dickerman

August 8, 2018 at 6:00 AM

A team of wildlife veterinarians uses a vehicle and a rope to turn over a tranquilized elephant so they can attach a GPS tracking collar and remove the tranquilizer dart at Mikumi National Park, Tanzania. (Ben Curtis/AP/)
Two young elephants play in Mikumi National Park. (Ben Curtis/AP/)

According to the World Wildlife Fund, between 20,000 and 30,000 African elephants are killed each year. They are mostly killed for their tusks, which are sought after in Asia. To help curtail elephant poaching, the WWF has teamed up with the government of Tanzania in a program to collar elephants in that country’s Selous Game Reserve area. With the help of satellite collars, the program is monitoring 60 elephants in an effort to better protect them against poachers.

The collars are fitted with technology that receives information from satellites. That information can be accessed by rangers on their mobile phones. This helps rangers track the elephants’ movements so that they can help them if they enter an area where a lot of poaching has happened or if they drift into human settlements. The program is the largest collaring effort that has been carried out in Tanzania.

In March, the Associated Press took a look at how the collaring program is working. The AP  traveled to the Selous Game Reserve and its neighboring Mikumi National Park. The AP says that, according to the Tanzanian government, the area saw a decline in its elephant population of 60 percent to 43,000 between 2009 and 2014. Most of the killings happened in the Selous-Mikumi area.

The AP also found that the effort to save elephants is working, at least partly. It reported that killings of elephants have started to decline, and some of the herds that had previously been devastated have shown signs of recovery. While this is a positive turn of events, there is still a lot of work to be done because there is still an illegal market there that is hungry for ivory. According to the AP, “it’s far too early to declare a turnaround. Poachers are moving to new areas, and traffickers are adapting, aided by entrenched corruption. The rate of annual elephant losses still exceeds the birthrate. And the encroachment of human settlements is reducing the animals’ range.”

Wildlife veterinarian Ernest Mjingo, center, runs as an elephant starts to charge toward him after being darted with a tranquilizer. (Ben Curtis/AP/)
A small herd of elephants is seen from an airplane in Mikumi National Park. (Ben Curtis/AP/)
Wildlife veterinarian Justin Shamancha prepares to fire a tranquilizer dart at an elephant. (Ben Curtis/AP/)
A dart containing the elephant tranquilizer etorphine hydrochloride strikes the side of an elephant. (Ben Curtis/AP/)
Wildlife veterinarian Ernest Mjingo walks toward a tranquilized elephant. (Ben Curtis/AP/)
A team of wildlife veterinarians uses a vehicle and a rope to turn over a tranquilized elephant to attach a GPS tracking collar. (Ben Curtis/AP/)
A team of wildlife veterinarians transports a GPS tracking collar as they walk through thick bush in search of an elephant to tranquilize. (Ben Curtis/AP/)
Veterinarians prepare darts containing an elephant tranquilizer. (Ben Curtis/AP/)
A wildlife veterinarian stands over the trunk of a tranquilized elephant. (Ben Curtis/AP/)
A tranquilized elephant on the ground. (Ben Curtis/AP/)
An armed wildlife ranger stands guard near a tranquilized elephant in case others approach. (Ben Curtis/AP/)
A herd of elephants forms a protective circle against a perceived threat, just after one was shot with a tranquilizer dart. (Ben Curtis/AP/)

In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.

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Kenneth Dickerman is a photo editor. He previously worked as a photo editor at MSN in Seattle and TIME in New York City. Before that, he worked as a freelance photographer specializing in politics and conflict and his work appeared in The New York Times, TIME and US News & World Report among other publications.

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In Sight | Perspective

Inside the effort to save Africa’s elephant population

By Kenneth Dickerman

August 8, 2018 at 6:00 AM

A team of wildlife veterinarians uses a vehicle and a rope to turn over a tranquilized elephant so they can attach a GPS tracking collar and remove the tranquilizer dart at Mikumi National Park, Tanzania. (Ben Curtis/AP/)
Two young elephants play in Mikumi National Park. (Ben Curtis/AP/)

According to the World Wildlife Fund, between 20,000 and 30,000 African elephants are killed each year. They are mostly killed for their tusks, which are sought after in Asia. To help curtail elephant poaching, the WWF has teamed up with the government of Tanzania in a program to collar elephants in that country’s Selous Game Reserve area. With the help of satellite collars, the program is monitoring 60 elephants in an effort to better protect them against poachers.

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