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The picture below could well be the last testimony of addax roaming in the wild. Although a dramatic statement, the data collected during fieldtrips carried out between December, 2014, and June, 2015, point to this conclusion. In June, 2015, all of the trees growing on the edge of the Tin Toumma desert and known to shelter addax during the hot season were visited. Sadly, no addax, recent dung or footprints were found; only old horns and skulls, some showing evidence of knife cuts, dried skin and old dung piles were encountered. In the vicinity of most trees we also noted the presence of recent vehicle tracks, made most likely by poachers searching for addax and other wildlife. With the massive influx of arms and 4x4 vehicles from Libya over the past 2-3 years, the addax has never been so threatened and our long-term monitoring program points to a serious decline in numbers. In the worst case, the addax may already be functionally extinct in the wild, with at best a few small isolated groups dispersed here and there across this vast desert landscape. In the best case, the addax have moved away from their known desert retreats in search of less disturbed areas. For the moment we just do not know. Whatever the case, this relatively recent decline in addax sightings can clearly be attributed to increased levels of poaching by both the armed forces and the local community. Combined with this are the impacts of massive disturbance to core addax habitat from the oil companies exploring for and exploiting Niger’s precious desert-based petroleum resources. In response to this dramatic situation, SCF’s strategy is to conduct a wide-ranging ground search for signs of addax both inside and outside the vast Termit & Tin Toumma National Nature Reserve and depending on the results, carry out a more focused aerial survey to confirm the presence, extent and numbers of the addax population. Survey work will encompass the Niger-Chad border area, including if possible aerial survey of the known addax habitat in western Chad. In conjunction with the survey work, efforts are already underway to strengthen the antipoaching work being carried out by members of the reserve’s ranger force. Over the past few months, reserve staff has been transferred closer to the reserve and this process will continue through the establishment of a forward base strategically sited within the reserve itself. Extra support is being provided for anti-poaching work through the purchase of fuel for the reserve’s vehicles. On the diplomatic front, efforts are also underway to engage the Chinese authorities in face-to-face talks to discuss ways of mitigating the impact of disturbance to key addax habitats. As a reminder, it is worth recalling that all conservation work in Niger is hampered by the extremely fragile security situation brought about by terrorism and the illegal activities made possible by the breakdown of law and order in neighboring countries. Conclusion - Bisbee’s Fish & Wildlife Conservation Fund and Sahara Conservation Fund will meet in the near future to discuss practical and effective means that can be employed to reverse this very disturbing new information on the possible “extinct-in-the-wild” status of Addax. John is presently on assignment in Africa and has sent Bisbee’s an email that he and his associates will meet with Bisbee’s after he returns, in order to form a strategic plan so that we do not lose this spectacular animal. Look for a more comprehensive article on the present status of Addax, and what efforts to save this animal may be possible by SCF in upcoming issues of Bisbee’s Conservation Journal. BISBEE’S CONSERVATION JOURNAL Q1/Q2 • 2016 43


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