Extinction Looms for Forest Elephants

March 7, 2013

Following the largest study ever conducted on the forest elephant in Central Africa, conservationists say the species could vanish within the next decade. The study comes as 178 countries gather in Bangkok to discuss wildlife trade issues, including poaching and ivory smuggling.

A new study confirms what conservationists have long feared—forest elephants are heading for extinction. The research, conducted by more than 60 scientists working in five Central African countries, reveals dire numbers: A staggering 62 percent of forest elephants have been killed for their ivory throughout the past decade. And few safe havens remain: Almost a third of the land where these animals were able to live 10 years ago has become too dangerous for them. Increased poaching tracks rising consumer demand for ivory in the Far East.

Although challenges abound, WCS is committed to saving Africa’s lesser-known elephant. This week, WCS conservationists are in Thailand for a meeting of CITES—the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora—where they’ll share the study’s devastating news and push for solutions.

We ask the international community to rally behind a species that is both an icon of Africa’s forests, and key to their health: By dispersing seeds and clearing trails, elephants serve as gardeners of the forest and are inextricably linked to maintaining biodiversity. Saving them will require effective, rapid, and multi-level action. A drastic increase of funding and an immediate focus on effective protection strategies are essential to avoiding additional losses.

As WCS’s Fiona Maisels, one of the study’s lead authors, explains, “Saving the species requires a coordinated global effort in the countries where elephants occur – all along the ivory smuggling routes, and at the final destination in the Far East. We don’t have much time before elephants are gone.”

Read more about this 10-year long study and its findings with our press release>>

Read a New York Times editorial on this topic>>

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