Something remarkable has happened in Kenya…the elephant population has grown more than twice what it was in 1989. This news came during an event that was held for World Elephant Day. How has this been possible, when the elephant population has  been declining all across Africa? The tourism minister Najib Balala boasted about the ability for the nation to tame poaching as to how this feat was accomplished.

Back in 1989, there were only 16,000 elephants left in Kenya. By 2018, that figure had climbed to an astonishing 34,000. Kenya Wildlife Services director John Waweru spoke about the accomplishment on World Elephant Day, as did Kenya’s tourism minister Najib Balala.

Balala spoke about the great news, saying “In the past couple of years, we have managed to tame poaching in this country.”

One anti-poaching method employed involved raising money to hire elephant guards, thanks to the funds raised in an elephant-naming campaign that is a part of the Magical Kenya initiative.

Balala also went onto to boast that in 2020 so far, “about 170 elephant calves have been born.”

Poaching Still Remains a Threat

In Kenya, there have only been seven elephants poached in 2020 so far. This is a significant decrease from the 34 in 2019 and 80 in 2018. Despite the great strides made in Kenya to protect elephants and increase their population, the same unfortunately cannot be said elsewhere in Africa.

Poaching has been devastating on elephants over the past few decades. Africa was once a sanctuary for elephants. In the 1970s, there was an astonishing 1.3 million elephants roaming the continent. Today, there are only around 500,000 left. Out of those, only 30,000 are still in the wild.

Demand for ivory has skyrocketed in recent years due to massive demand in Asia. The COVID-19 lockdowns instituted in sub-Saharan African nations have also exacerbated the problem, given the rise in poaching that we are seeing. Demand from Asia largely stems from the belief that elephant parts can be used as part of traditional medicine, which is a strongly-held belief that is not easily changed.

Thankfully, Kenya has been making a great display of just how extensive and serious its anti-poaching efforts have been. In fact, in 2016, the president of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, set ablaze an incredibly valuable stockpile of elephant tusks. This was done to send a message to would-be poachers and smugglers that the country is very serious about stopped poaching at all costs.

Additionally, the Kenyan government has mandated very heavy fines and lengthy jail sentences that go far beyond what they used to be. Anyone who is caught poaching wildlife, such as majestic elephants, will have to face the consequences of those actions. Also, people caught trafficking wildlife trophies will be met with stiff penalties and jail time as well.

It’s reassuring to see just what can be accomplished with a little bit of planning, effort, and determination. Elephants are majestic beings roaming this planet, and we are now at a time where they need our help to protect them. Hopefully, more countries will look to Kenya as a model for how to do so.