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Elephant And Rhino Populations Recover Thanks to Anti-Poaching Task Force

The majesty of exotic animals like elephants and rhinos is enough to make long, expensive vacations to see them in the flesh worth it, but there's always a sad underpinning to those trips.

As we know, many of these beloved animals are facing a threat to their very existence. So while we appreciate how beautiful and gentle they can be, we do so in the knowledge that we may not get to see them for long.

However, if the kind of progress we're now seeing in Tanzania can be adopted in other regions, the situation may not be as hopeless as it seems.

In Tanzania, both rhinos and elephants were in a dire position about four years ago.

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As Reuters reported, elephant numbers had declined from 110,000 in 2009 to 43,000 in 2014.

At best, there were also only 133 rhinos in the nation by the following year.

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Although there are often multiple reasons for a species to decline, the big contributing factor in these cases was rampant poaching.

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According to National Geographic, rhinos like this one under the protection of these armed guards are often targeted for their horns, which a persistent myth holds to have medical properties.

Even though they're just made of common keratin, buyers throughout Asia purport them to do anything from curing cancer to improving sexual performance. They do neither.

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As for elephants, they're being hunted for the ivory in their tusks.

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As Reuters reported, there's a great demand for ivory jewelry and trinkets in China and Vietnam, which has attracted more poachers to the international ivory market.

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To curb this poaching surge, the Tanzanian government assembled a task force to crack down on poachers and their benefactors.

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As the Tanzanian president's office said in a statement, the task force's main goal was to dissolve organized criminal networks that make poaching so lucrative.

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This task force secured a key victory in February with the arrest and conviction of the "Ivory Queen."

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As the BBC reported, this nickname was given to Yang Fenglan, a businesswoman from China who was caught trading $2.5 million worth of ivory gathered from approximately 400 elephants.

She was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

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And the task force's efforts were responsible for more than just some poachers' jail time.

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Although elephant populations declined to 43,000 in 2014, they have since rebounded to about 60,000.

The president's office attributes this directly to the anti-poaching task force.

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As for the rhinos, they've seen their numbers increase to 167.

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However, there's apparently some confusion over how low their population actually fell before this recovery took place.

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As stated above, the most encouraging possible estimate from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species put rhino numbers at 133.

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However, the Tanzanian government estimated that the nation was down to 15 rhinos back in 2015. It's unclear why the two sources reported such vastly different numbers.

h/t: Reuters

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