Campers Get a Visit From One of Tanzania’s Rapidly Disappearing Elephants

June 13, 2017 Updated: June 13, 2017

Some campers in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater, a part of Ngorongoro Conservation Area in northern Tanzania, got a close up of some of the country’s biggest wildlife on June 7.

An elephant nonchalantly walked through their huddle of tents, stopped at a tree to eat some leaves, then just as nonchalantly walked back into the forest.

The camper who captured it on video and posted it online said it was an “amazing moment”  to see such a “beautiful and peaceful animal from such a close distance.”

Elephant intrusions like this may be less and less frequent as Tanzania’s elephant population declines however.

In 2015, the government estimated the country had lost 60 percent of its population since 2009. In numbers, that means Tanzania had 109,051 elephants in 2009 and by the end of 2014, only 43,330 remained.

Tanzania’s minister of natural resources and tourism said they could simply be crossing into other countries, but according to the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), the root of the problem is corruption and poaching.

Elephant tusks can fetch thousands of dollars each in countries like China and the Philippines where they are used for ornaments, jewelry, and sometimes medicine.

While many countries have banned ivory sales because of the decline of elephant populations around the world, the black market for elephant tusks remains strong. Every year, 33,000 elephants are killed for their ivory in Africa, estimates WildAid, an international organization that works on consumers to end the demand for wildlife parts.  

This is why in some conservation areas, park officials will cut off the tusks of the elephants to protect them from hunting.

The EIA said in a 2014 report called Vanishing Point that Chinese-led criminal gangs were conspiring with Tanzanian officials to traffic huge amounts of ivory from the country.

The international organization said the government has consistently buried reports showing the declining number of elephants in the country, and has even made it illegal to publish data that is not approved by the National Bureau of Statistics.

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