The CITES Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (or MIKE) Programme is a site-based system designed to monitor trends in levels of illegal killing of elephants and build capacity in sites spread across the range of African and Asian elephants. Information from MIKE is used by CITES Parties to inform decision making on elephant conservation and management.


MIKE aims to provide a reliable, robust and impartial information base to support discussions and decision making on elephant conservation and management. The objectives of the MIKE Programme are set out in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) under Resolution 10:10. The four main objectives are:

1) Measuring trends and changes in the illegal killing of elephants

This is achieved through the collection of elephant mortality information by wildlife patrol staff. As part of their day-to-day work, these staff record each elephant carcass they find, and whether the elephant was killed illegally. They also record the date, location, and other details, such whether the ivory has been removed. These records are then collected at each site, and at the end of the year each range State government passes it on to the MIKE Programme for analysis.

2) Assessing the impacts of decisions under CITES on elephant conservation and management

MIKE has conducted analyses to evaluate the relative contribution of a wide variety of potential drivers. In this analysis, three key factors have emerged as good predictors of elephant poaching levels. These are: demand in ivory consuming nations; governance in elephant range States; and poverty levels in and around MIKE sites. These results indicate that the illegal killing of elephants for ivory is ultimately driven and sustained by demand for illegal ivory from buyers, while poverty and poor governance can facilitate or ‘enable’ elephant poaching. 

3) Informing decision making on elephant management, protection and enforcement needs

MIKE reports and analyses are presented and discussed by Parties at annual CITES Standing Committee meetings and three yearly meetings of the Conference of the Parties. Summary reports of the information on trends in illegal elephant killing are up-dated annually on the CITES website. The Analysis page also shows the results of the MIKE analyses by sub-region and MIKE site and gives an overview of the results of the MIKE Programme analyses.

4) Building capacity in managing elephants and enhancing enforcement

MIKE is also building site and national capacity to protect elephants and other CITES listed species in a limited number of focal sites. Tailor-made local law enforcement capacity building packages are developed for each of the sites selected. These are based on the specific needs identified through a participatory planning process and the resources available. This process typically involves senior site managers, law enforcement operations staff, and senior patrol staff that work in the area.

MIKE Programme Structure

The day-to-day management of the MIKE Programme is done by a small team of staff from the CITES Secretariat, based at the UN Office of Nairobi under the UN Environment Programme in Nairobi, Kenya. The overall implementation of MIKE is supervised by the Standing Committee of CITES.

To enhance MIKE implementation, Africa and Asia are each divided sub-regions. In each sub-region MIKE is supervised by a Steering Committee, comprised of the national wildlife directors from participating elephant range States. Each range State also has a National Focal Point, and each MIKE site has a Site Focal Point.

MIKE’s technical outputs are overseen and endorsed by an independent Technical Advisory Group (TAG). Established by the Standing Committee, the TAG is a group of volunteer experts drawn from across the globe. The TAG reviews the technical quality of the MIKE processes, methods and analytical outputs.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is elephant poaching increasing?

The MIKE analyses show that elephant poaching at MIKE sites increased substantially between 2006 and 2011. Since then poaching levels have most probably declined slightly and leveled off, but they remain at a high level overall.

Is poaching impacting elephant populations?

MIKE analyses suggest that elephant poaching rates exceeded estimated population growth rates for several years after 2010. This is likely to have led to declines in elephant populations across Africa. Detail on elephant populations can be found here and the full report “African elephant status report 2016: an update from the African Elephant Database” can be found here.

Is trading in ivory legal under CITES?

All commercial international trade in the ivory of African elephants is currently prohibited under CITES. A more detailed explanation of the current legislation applied to ivory and Africa elephants under can be found here.

Have CITES-approved ivory sales had an impact on poaching levels?

The MIKE analysis has yet to find evidence to suggest that illegal killing of elephants increased or decreased as a direct result of the CITES-approved ivory sales. More information on factors that may impact poaching levels can be found here.

Can I access the detailed elephant mortality data?

Data submitted to MIKE are owned by the CITES Parties that provided the data. CITES Resolution Conf. 10.10 states that this data ‘will not be released to any third party without the consent of the Party‘.  Summary data can be downloaded here.


An initiative of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States funded by the European Union

The MIKE Programme is entirely dependent on donor support. The European Union has been the most important donor for the MIKE Programme and has funded implementation in Africa since its inception in 2001. We are grateful to a wide range of other donors that have also helped support the programme’s implementation.