It is a race against time to ensure the future of the notable remnant population of approximately 550 elephants in the Gourma of Mali. These represent 12% of all West African elephants, and are the northernmost in Africa since the extinction of the Mauritanian elephants in the Assaba mountains in the 1980s. Thanks to work by Save the Elephants we understand how their annual migration circuit enables them to cope with the widely dispersed and variable nature of the Gourma’s resources, finding water in the north during the dry season, abundant good quality forage in the south during the wet season, and avoiding human activity as much as possible. Increasing agriculture, livestock and people on the migration route is increasing conflict, and the Mali Elephant Project is responding to this situation by establishing systems of community-government collaboration to secure the future of these elephants (further information from The WILD Foundation and International Conservation Fund of Canada).
These elephants have lived in relative harmony with the local people, and their tusks are small and fractured, however on the 25th January there was the first recorded incident of poaching. A motorbike with two turbaned men shot a female elephant (who was suckling an infant) three times, and returned later for the tusks. The Malian Government Direction Nationale des Eau et Forets (DNEF) worked with the local community surveillance brigades established by the Mali Elephant Project to find the community collaborators who enabled this to happen. These are now in prison and investigations are underway to identify the perpetrators.