Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild


Born Free is the proud to have been a sponsor of an anti-poaching team in Park W, Burkina Faso in West Africa. ‘Team Elephant’ (“L’équipe des éléphants” in French), composed of 24 rangers and a number of volunteers, are desperately trying to protect elephants over 2,500km2.  Team Elephant faces a huge challenge. As well as the sheer size of the area, the elephants in Park W are under serious threat from highly organized criminal gangs determined to kill them for their ivory.


Elephant carcas
Pierre Kafondo, Wildlife Director for Burkina Faso, and Shelley Waterland, Born Free Foundation Programmes Manager (2003-2014), with the body of another victim of the bloody ivory trade in Burkina Faso, 2013.

Across the continent but particularly in the West and Central African region, poaching has reached crisis point for elephants.  Between 2008 and 2013, the estimated death toll ranged between 30,000 and 50,000 elephants per year. These are startling statistics. In West Africa alone, there are now thought to be no more than 7,000 elephants remaining of which more than 4,000 are found in Burkina Faso, their last remaining stronghold in the region.

A vital habitat for elephants in Burkina Faso is Park W, a 10,000km2 transboundary protected area that spans Burkina Faso, Benin and Niger. Within Burkina Faso, Park W covers approximately 2,500 km2. It is part of a much larger group of protected areas known as the WAP complex that includes Arly National Park, also in Burkina Faso and Pendjari National Park in Benin. Park W is ecologically fragile. It is threatened by over-grazing and the secondary impacts of bushmeat hunting.

Tragically, the recent upsurge in demand for elephant ivory in the Far East has caused alarming levels of elephant poaching inside the Park. The anti-poaching teams are ill-equipped to deal with the sophisticated firearms of the poachers both elephants and the people trying to protect them are losing their lives.

I’ve travelled extensively in Africa but have never before been somewhere where the elephants were so terrified.  At the first sign of human activity they ran for cover.  Where previously it was easy to see elephants inside the Park, now they are in hiding and it has become a fight for survival.” said Shelley Waterland, Born Free Foundation Programmes Manager (2003-2014), talking of the elephant crisis in Burkina Faso.

Dedicated Wildlife Rangers in Parc W, Burkina Faso

Elephant Poaching in Africa

  • Elephant poaching and the illegal trade in ivory is a multi-million dollar business often run by highly organized criminal networks.
  • It has been estimated that approximately 30,000 – 50,000 elephants are poached each year for their valuable ivory tusks. 
  • African forest elephant populations declined by ca. 62% between 2002 and 2011 and are now less than 10% of their potential size.
  • Elephant populations in West and Central Africa are particularly vulnerable because protected areas do not attract large number of visitors as they do in East and Southern Africa and revenues generated from tourism that can feed back into the national park system are low. As a consequence, for some elephant populations it is already too late – Senegal may have just one elephant remaining. In 2004, there were thought to be around 4,000 elephants in Zakouma National Park in Chad but presently there are estimated to be less than 500 remaining. 
  • For other populations, there is still time, but we have reached crisis point in many countries and funds are urgently needed to equip rangers and train enforcement officers. If elephant poaching in West and Central Africa is not brought under control very quickly, there will no longer be any elephants left to conserve.
  • According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List it has been postulated that West African elephants are in fact a distinct species, once they are gone they are gone…

Park W

To see what Team Elephant are fighting for, watch the video about Park W below

Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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