Cool Science
A Lost Century

August 31, 2016

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Photo Credit: Cristián Samper © WCS

Because forest elephants are one the slowest reproducing mammals in the world, it will take almost a century for them to recover from the intense poaching they have suffered since 2002, a new study says.

It takes female forest elephants more than two decades to begin reproducing. They then only give birth once every five to six years.

The findings are from a first-ever study of forest elephant demography, co-authored by researchers from WCS and published today in the Journal of Applied Ecology. They come as leaders from around the world are set to gather at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawaii to discuss domestic ivory markets, among many other things.

The research team here used decades of intensive monitoring data that recorded births and deaths of the elephants using the Dzanga Bai, which translates roughly as "village of elephants," in Central African Republic.

"This work provides another critical piece of understanding regarding the dire conservation status of forest elephants," said the study's lead author, Andrea Turkalo. Turkalo is a WCS Associate Conservation Scientist who has collected detailed data on the Dzanga elephants over several decades despite tough logistical challenges and political instability.

Forest elephants are one of two elephant species in Africa. Due to poaching, they suffered an estimated population decline of 65 percent between 2002 and 2013 according to a study led by WCS.

Want to help Africa's elephants? Check out our 96 Elephants campaign for easy actions you can take.

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