Organised crime

The Future of Elephant Poaching in DR Congo

May 21, 2020

Jesutimilehin Akamo


This article explores the link between elephant poaching and electrical equipment, and its impact on wildlife. Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) wildlife paradise does not make the news often. Existing threats are also ignored. Forest Elephants are the most common species in DRC, and poachers kill them to harvest their tusks for ivory. Ivory is a raw material for electrical equipment companies, and the industry is progressing. This affects the population of rain forest trees.



Reconstructed Scenario is based on the following judgments: 


  • It is highly likely that the demand for ivory will increase within the next decade.
  • It is almost certain that without an alternative to ivory in manufacturing electrical equipment, ivory trade will increase.
  • It is almost certain that an increase in ivory demand will be directly proportional to the number of elephant deaths.
  • The deaths of elephants will affect the population of rain forest trees within the next 2 decades. It is highly likely that there will be a decline in the population of rainforest trees in DRC.



Reconstructed Scenario


Poaching led to the decline of animals, especially forest elephants. Because of this, the park struggles with wildlife. Elephant and giraffe population dropped to 1200 and 48. DRC burned 1,050 kg of ivory and 1,197 kg of pangolin scales on 30 SEP 2018 in Kinshasa as instructed by the government. In the previous year, Garamba National Park burnt its ivory seized stocks. These showed their disapproval of ivory trade. DRC seized a minimum of 15 tons of ivory tusks. This amounts to an estimate of over 5,000 dead elephants. Through these acts, the country confirmed and reaffirmed its commitment to stop environmental crime. The map below shows where Garamba National Park is.



Plugs and Sockets: More Ivory More Elephant Deaths


Forest elephants use their tusks for digging, lifting objects, gathering food, stripping bark from trees to eat, and defence. Poaching makes them vulnerable. They weigh about 2–5 tons and are 8-10 feet tall, smaller than Savanna Elephants. Their tusks are straighter and pointed down. Increase in demand for ivory within the last decade led to the death of more forest Elephants. Within a decade elephant population reduced by about 64%, while about 100,000 elephants died within 3 years. Although ivory trade is illegal, it thrives. Anti-poaching laws are tough to enforce because of corruption, weak law enforcement, and weak anti-poaching capacity.


Ivory is used to manufacture electrical appliances. This includes specialized electrical equipment for aeroplanes and radar, and electrical plugs and sockets. Since 2013, the global market for it has improved. Hence an increase in demand and supply of ivory. See examples below.


  • Hong Kong jumped by 6.7% of Export of Electrical Plugs and Sockets in 2018, compared to a year earlier.
  • Since 2013 Germany Export of Electrical Plugs and Sockets was up 6.9% year on year reaching $4,177,804,712.35.
  • In 2016 Mongolia was ranked number 86 in Export of Electrical Plugs and Sockets to $118,137, from 131 in 2015.


Below is the ranking of exporters of plugs and sockets, among other products.




Anti-poaching movement is one-sided or misguided. Focus should be on reducing demand. Poachers are middlemen, and demands from relevant manufacturers underscore poaching. Demand for ivory provokes an increase in elephant deaths because poachers want to meet the demand. This is backed up by Grey Dynamics Africa Intelligence Assessment on ivory market. If the demand remains high, poaching will increase. Reducing ivory demand is thus the logical way to reduce poaching. Hence the need to have an alternative to Ivory in manufacturing plugs and sockets, for example. DRC does not have manufacturing plants that use ivory as raw materials.



Ecological Considerations


Some rainforest trees need to pass through the digestive tracts of Forest Elephants to grow, and scientific research proves:

  • Forest elephants disperse more intact seeds than any other species or genus of a large vertebrate in African forests.
  • Forest elephants disperse seeds over unprecedented distances compared to other dispersers.
  • Loss of forest elephants affects animal-dispersed tree species.


The decline in the elephant population in DRC will no doubt affect the bloom of the rain forest in DRC. The image charts below show the distance of seed transportation by Elephants compared to other animals.




The Future of Elephant Poaching


DRC government cannot enforce anti-poaching laws, and demand for ivory is increasing. This means that it will become difficult to stop poachers. Also, more poachers may join the hunt for elephants. Except demand reduces poaching will progress.

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