Scientists call for halt to elephant hunting along Kenya-Tanzania border

Saturday June 29 2024

Elephants at Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. PHOTO I XINHUA


A group of international scientists said Thursday that the hunting of elephants along the Kenya-Tanzania border for their tusks should be stopped to save the giant land mammals from extinction.

In a letter published by Science, an international journal, 24 biologists, zoologists, and conservationists warned against trophy hunting of elephants along the Amboseli ecosystem that spans the Kenya-Tanzania border amid threat to tourism and the livelihoods of local communities.

According to scientists, five male adult elephants with tusks weighing more than 45 kg were shot by trophy hunters in Tanzania in late 2023 and early 2024, posing a new threat to the survival of the iconic giant herbivore.

These elephants, according to wildlife biologists, were among the most magnificent species of the cross-border population studied for 51 years by the Amboseli Elephant Research Project (AERP) in Kenya.

Read: Elephant deaths trigger Kenyan call for Tanzania to curb hunts

Despite being banned in Kenya for the last 50 years, trophy hunting is permitted in neighbouring Tanzania. However, to help protect the cross-border species, hunters are not allowed to shoot elephants in the vicinity of Amboseli National Park.


Cynthia Moss, founder and director of the AERP, noted that elephants in this ecosystem that straddles Kenya and Tanzania have thrived in the decades when the hunting ban was honoured.

"These elephants are not only sources of great scientific knowledge and key attractions for the ecotourism economy, but also represent a unique and irreplaceable natural wildlife heritage for the people of both countries and the world," Moss said.

Genetically predisposed to have some of the largest tusks on the African continent, the Amboseli elephants have historically been protected from both legal and illegal hunting, said Joyce Poole, director of ElephantVoices, an international elephant protection lobby, and a lead author of the letter.

Poole noted that the Amboseli cross-border elephant population holds immense scientific value, representing one of the last gene pools for large tusks, hence the need to place a ban on their hunting and safeguard their genetic future.

The scientists in their letter observed that 70 percent of African elephants are found in transboundary populations, and their hunting could disrupt ecosystem balance in neighbouring countries.

Hosting more than 2,000 elephant populations, the Amboseli National Park and ranges cover about 30,000 square kilometres across Kenya and Tanzania, noted the scientists.

In addition, there are 65 elephant families in this population while 17 families totalling 365 members frequently cross into Tanzania, said the scientists, adding that older males with huge tusks are the primary target for trophy hunters.