Despite their enormous size, African forest elephants are still a mystery species. This is due to their habitat in dense tropical forests in West Africa and the Congo.
The more we learn about them, however, the more we realize that forest elephants are in serious trouble. Similar to their larger cousins, the bush elephants or savannahs (also known as forest elephants)Loxodonta africana), forest elephants (L. cyclotis) face rampant poaching for their majestic ivory tusks and the growing bush meat trade. More than 80%Since 2002, central Africa has seen the death of a large proportion of its population.
Today, fewer than 100,000 forest-eating elephants live in their habitat. Conservationists fear they could soon be extinct if nothing is done.
A new threat has now emerged: A September study revealed that there is a significant increase in the number of suicide attempts. climate changeGabon’s forest elephant habitat has seen an 81% decrease in fruit production. That’s caused the elephants there to experience an 11% decline in body condition since 2008.
However, research published in September suggests another possible solution to these crises.
It all boils down carbon dioxide.
Forest elephants play a significant role in supporting carbon sequestration in their tropical habitats. Hungry pachyderms play an important role in carbon sequestration. mega-gardenersThey move across the landscape looking for leaves, bark, fruit and other small items. They also stomp on small trees and shrubs and spread seeds in their dung. This encourages the growth and maintenance of larger carbon-absorbing trees that can sequester more carbon from air.
A July 2019 study by ecologist Fabio Berzaghi, a researcher at the Laboratory of Climate and Environmental Sciences in France, estimated that if forest elephants disappeared African forests would lose 7% of their biomass — a stunning 3 billion-ton loss of carbon.
And they’re not unique in this oversized role, although the closest equivalent lives in an entirely different type of habitat.
Last year, a team of researchers, led by Ralph Chami (economist and assistant director at International Monetary Fund), published a groundbreaking reportOn the monetary value great whales, the 13 large species which include blue and/or humpback whales. The study accounted for whales’ enormous carbon-capturing functions, from fertilizing oxygen-producing phytoplankton to storing enormous amounts of carbon in their bodies when they die and sink to the seafloor. After also including tourism values, Chami’s study estimated each whale was worth $2 million, amounting to a staggering $1 trillion for the entire global population of whales.
“It’s a win-win for everyone,” Chami says of his economic models, which place a monetary value on the “natural capital” of wildlife, including the carbon sequestration activities of whales and elephants. “By allowing nature to regenerate, [elephants and whales]They are much more valuable to us that if we extract them. If nature thrives, you thrive.”
Soon after the publication of Chami’s whale study, Berzaghi called and asked if the economist could run the numbers on forest elephants too. Chami agreed and they published their September whale study. published the results. They calculated that the forest carbon sequestration value alone makes each elephant worth approximately $1.75 million.
And even more important, they discovered that forest elephants would be more carbon-capturing if they were allowed to return to their former numbers. $150 billion.
And as climate change worsens, Chami says forest elephants will become even more valuable in terms of their carbon sequestration role — and as individuals. “The loss of their habitats has the impact of causing them more stress and to have fewer babies,” he says.
Despite these staggering, but theoretical numbers, the researchers knew that they needed a financial plan that could actually be implemented and sustained in real life.
This starts with keeping elephants alive.
Poachers are paid pennies per elephant tusk. Once they reach consumers, they can fetch prices as high as $20,000 for their elephant tusks. $40,000Information about the illegal ivory market
Chami says that pales in comparison to the $1.75 million an elephant could be worth for its carbon sequestration services, an amount that works out to roughly $80 a day over an elephant’s 60-year average lifetime.
But how can you bring that value to those who live near elephants and even poach them? Chami turned to global carbon markets, which encourage countries and companies to offset their greenhouse gas emissions by investing in restorative actions in other parts.
Chami gathered together a group conservation, business technology, economic experts to help develop a pilot program that could promote the preservation of forest elephants in Africa. They are collaborating to create a legal framework as well as a secure financial distribution system that would make use of carbon markets to help local communities protect forest elephants. To ensure their safety, individual elephants would be tracked by satellite technology. As long as elephants live, communities can receive regular payments from a carbon marketplace that is funded by corporations, individuals, and governments to offset their polluting. Elephants could become “living assets” for countries that protect them.
These assets could add up. Chami says the population of 1,500 elephants in Gabon’s Loango National Forest would provide $2.4 million in annual revenue.
“We need to build a market around living elephants,” Chami says. “The poachers can become the caretakers.”
That’s an exciting concept to wildlife experts, who have already had some success empowering communities through tourism. For elephants living in remote areas of African forest forests, however, tourism is not an option. A market that places value on elephants’ contributions to climate change and global carbon sequestration opens up new opportunities for support.
“It potentially changes how people think of the value of elephants,” said Ian Redmond, a renowned African conservationist who’s working with Chami and others to fund forest elephant protection efforts.
Redmond says he’s thrilled about this new plan because it incentivizes locals to protect their natural resources, not exploit them.
“It’s a gamechanger, not just for its ecological benefits, but for poverty reduction,” he says. “It’s a mechanism of change for people in the forest for people who before now only get money if they kill something. Now there’s an economic incentive to protect the elephants and their carbon-rich habitat so everyone benefits, locally and globally.”
Experts believe the key is getting money distributed fairly and securely in local communities. Chami’s team says the revolution in new secure financial networks such as blockchain, the building block of digital monetary systems like Bitcoin, can help establish a monetary system that can be more efficient and transparent than traditional banking systems. Africa’s ahead of the curve when it comes to dealing in these new digital monetary technologiesEven though it is not perfect, it can be an anti-corruption tool for the murky world of international debt swaps and carbon markets. fraud and influence peddling.
Walid Al Saqqaf is a founder of a startup and technology expert who produces the weekly podcast Insureblocks,Chami and conservationists Redmond are collaborating closely to tap into global markets for carbon and create a framework to support local funding efforts. Al Saqqaf points out the security of blockchain technologyCan attract international governmental agencies and private sector banks and insurers who will increasingly want carbon offsets by investing in carbon sequestering natural resource. “We take a toxic asset such as carbon and transform it into carbon for social good,” Al Saqqaf says.
The group is setting up technology, legal and science working groups to develop a cohesive plan that could go into effect next year, although the conservation team says it’s too early to announce specifics of the pilot program. They claim that they are in talks with African governments in order to protect their elephants, as well as private businesses interested in carbon offsets.
Both poaching and climate change continue to pose threats. A June study found that poaching continues despite efforts to reduce ivory trade. elephant poaching rates remain “near their peak and have changed little since 2011.”
The team was forced to quickly implement their ground-breaking plan because of the rapidly increasing risks of extinctions due to climate change. “We are in a race against time,” Al Saqqaf says.
While the work on elephants remains on the drawing board, Chami’s earlier study on the economic value of whales has already started generating real-world action. A G20 working group recommended this yearThe member countries consider whales in their ecosystem and climate mitigation. In Chile a national initiative is using Chami’s economic model to help design a project called the Blue Boat InitiativeThe Chilean government has supported the development of a satellite-based and sea-based plan called “Satellite Plan to Protect Whales from Ship Collisions”
“The valuation of ecosystem services is very relevant because it allows us to show the oceans are not only a raw material,” says Patricia Morales, general manager of Fundacion Cortes Solari, a private foundation that supports the Blue Boat Initiative and other climate and environmental issues. “We need to move from the current paradigm to the blue economy.”
Chami says the positive global response to their work is rewarding, but it’s far from complete. His team — which plans to apply this methodology to other species — knows the dire state of the natural world, and the challenges of creating new international funding and conservation models are huge. But Chami and his colleagues say that by “translating science into dollars,” researchers can build a powerful market-based mechanism that can reverse society’s incentive to destroy the natural world.
“We need to learn to live in balance with nature,” Chami says. “Our sustainability depends on protecting our ecosystems.”