Africa’s Elephant Population Is Plummeting

African Elephants

Story at-a-glance -

  • The huge increase in elephant poaching in Africa is fueled by a growing demand for ivory in Asia. African elephants are killed for their tusks, and the ivory is shipped primarily to Thailand and China.
  • Trading in ivory has been banned under CITES, but the illegal ivory trade is estimated at $10 billion a year. Experts believe a combination of poverty and weak law enforcement in African countries is driving the spike in elephant poaching.

By Dr. Becker

In 1900, there were an estimated 10 million elephants in Africa. By 1980, that number had dropped to just over a million. Today, there are only around a half million elephants left. And according to animal conservation groups, Africa could lose another 20 percent of its elephant population over the next decade if current poaching levels are maintained.

In a joint statement, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), TRAFFIC (a wildlife monitoring agency) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), warned “If poaching rates are sustained at current levels, Africa is likely to lose a fifth of its elephants in the next ten years."

Illegal Ivory Trade Is a $10 Billion Per Year Industry

The tremendous increase in poaching is fueled by a growing demand for ivory in Asia. Elephants are killed for their tusks.

Experts believe a combination of poverty and weak law enforcement in African countries is driving the spike in elephant poaching. Trading in ivory has been banned under CITES, but the illegal ivory trade is estimated at $10 billion a year. The price of illegal ivory has increased tenfold in the past 10 years, and the quantities of ivory traded have been steadily increasing for over a dozen years.

Ivory trafficking routes seem to be moving from west and central African seaports to east Africa. Most of the ivory is sold in Thailand and China.

A group of African ministers and experts met recently in Botswana to gain commitment, including from the biggest ivory markets such as China, to fight against elephant poaching and ivory trafficking.

According to the secretary general of CITES, “Current elephant poaching in Africa remains far too high, and could soon lead to local extinctions if the present killing rates continue.”

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