The Mali Elephant Project has achieved notable success in working with the government and local communities to conserve the Gourma elephants, however the events of 2012 have meant that for the first time, three elephants have been poached. Community information networks discovered the identities of the perpetrators but require armed back-up to be able to act on this information, particularly with the influx of a variety of armed groups and the imminent military campaign to retake the north of Mali.
The 550-700 elephants are a notable remnant population and represent 12% of all West African elephants. This sub-desert population largely escaped the intense poaching of the 1980's that extirpated other Sahelian populations, making them the most northerly African population and a high priority in IUCN’s regional elephant strategy. They survive by making the largest elephant migration in Africa, whose route takes them annually from Mali to Burkina Faso and back. One elephant was measured to have covered 3,435 km in 12 months!