RUVUMA (TANZANIA), THE Selous Game Reserve, one of the greatest wildlife ecosystems, has seen a drastic decline in elephant populations from about 45,000 in 2009 to a mere 15,000 in 2014, according to Selous aerial surveys carried out in 2013 through 2014.

The surge in poaching has been driven largely by soaring demand for ivory in southern east Asia; as a result, the Selous Game Reserve was, in 2014, inscribed on the list of the World Heritage in Danger.

The revelation was made by the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Major-General Gaudence Milanzi, in a speech read on his behalf by Twaha Twaibu, Senior Public Communication officer in the Tanzania wildlife management Authority (TAWA) � on National Elephant Day jointly marked at national level by The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Tanzania country office and TAWA over the weekend at Lusewa small town in Namtumbo District, Ruvuma region.

The greater ecosystem has seen a drastic decline in the elephant population in the last five years from almost 100,000 to a mere 15,000, hence the need for awareness creation among the people living close to the SGR, on the importance of protecting elephants from poaching to avoid extinction, Major General Milanzi said, in part.

The PS described elephants as one of the WWF 'flagship' species which the organization had supported for many years, ensuring its conservation and management within the Selous itself and the adjacent dispersal areas which forms the wildlife management areas which, in turn, form the critical corridor which links the Niassa Game Reserve in northern Mozambique.

The climax of the National Elephant Day was preceded by demonstrators carrying banner with conservation messages to the venue in concerted efforts to increase WWF publicity lead by a band under the theme, It's Tanzania National Elephant Day tomorrow! Let's join our voices and shout for our Tanzania elephants!

The main objective of this year's National Elephant Day commemoration activities was aimed at creating community awareness on elephant conservation.

the marking of the National Elephant Day here at Lusewa, a small town in Ruvuma region is aimed at bringing about awareness globally and to Tanzanians about the plight of elephants which is threatened by illegal wildlife trade and poaching and increasing human-elephant conflicts as well as habitat and range loss and fragmentation, the PS said.

The National Elephant Day in Tanzania was 'borrowed' from the World Elephant Day which is marked annually on Aug 12 globally.

In Tanzania, the National Elephant Day was officially first marked on Sept 22, 2011. Since then, this date was declared a National Elephant Day -- during a meeting held in 2010, which also passed the National Elephant Management Plan (2011 to 2015).

The meeting was a follow-up to the CITES meeting held in Doha, Qatar in 2010, attended by 37 African elephant range states.

During that CITES meeting, the participants passed the African Elephant Action Plan designed to protect elephants whose continued existence was increasingly being threatened by poaching.