The African Elephant Births
The elephant population in Africa grew at a rapid rate in the 1950s and 1960s.
Various conflicts resulted in many fatalities for humans, elephants, and prey,
as well as extensive hunting of elephants for their ivory tusks.
A few years later, the African elephant was listed as vulnerable,
with populations at dangerously low levels in many areas.
Since then changed dramatically.
The population has stabilized in some areas and grown slightly.
African elephants assess the conservation status.
I created a map of all known African elephant births since 1958.
The map divides the continent into 15 distinct elephant ranges,
based on two years of observed births in each range.
Elephant Births, In Millions:
African Elephant Range Map
African Elephant Births In The Year Aged 4 Months (From 1958-2012
4 Months/4 Months (Elephant Population Increase/Population Range)
To calculate the numbers of births in each range,
I used the 2013 elephant population estimates
From the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species tracking
the age structure of each range using the elephant birth index.
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The birth index used this table:
Type of Range/Age Group (Circa 1966-2016)
This allowed me to count the number of elephants that died or disappeared between 1966 and 2016.
I then tallied the number of elephants born in each range.
To be clear, I use deaths and births for ranges in Africa to determine the size of an elephant range.
If the elephant population is in a range of 1,000 elephants,
the range is defined as 1,000 elephants, not 1,000 individuals.
This model could be criticized for overcounting the number of births by my system.
The elephant population in the African range changes considerably over time and during the mid-1970s and early 1980s,
the elephant population was close to 100,000 elephants.
An elephant range of 100,000 may be the largest ever seen by human eyes,
with estimates ranging between 100,000 to 200,000.
However, we have no way to determine the extent to which we have influenced the size of the elephant population,
especially if the entire range was hunted.
Many of the ranges I look at were in extremely poor shape in the 1960s and 1970s, with few or no elephant births.
However, by 1972, several ranges had added elephant births or deaths to their demographic record.
Today, most African elephant ranges have multiple years with increased elephant births
(or deaths), and some have their first years of growth recorded.
We can only be sure that we have grown, in a small way, the population if we can observe the growth.
The Elephant Population (1968-2016)
A major reason for this population increase is the total number of animals
(elephant and elephant populations) has remained relatively constant.
As populations increase, new range space is created, which increases the total population.
This mechanism works well over decades, allowing for animal population growth,
regardless of whether we are working on the landscape or working in response to immediate concerns.
African Elephant Population Change From 1968 (Estimates Based on Births)
Population Increase (Elephant Population Growth)
For the elephant population to grow over time, a very small number of individuals
(i.e., no more than 4 percent of individuals) need to have a high level of reproductive success.
The number of females in each range that give birth increases as the range becomes larger,
allowing an increase in genetic diversity, with some of the offspring
(if any) being able to survive to the age of 4 years.
Today, each range has its peak number of birth
(not all range members live to see their fourth year) and then drops to the lowest rate of birth
(an elephant would have to be born in the range, have one successful birth and survive to the age of 4 years to increase the population).
In the mid-1960s, when the elephant population was only 100,000 animals,
this process likely led to elephant deaths in some of the smaller ranges,
but these range changes were often short-lived,
with elephants eventually returning to their previous range.
By the mid-1990s, the elephant population was rebounding,
with a large portion of the range experiencing