IUCN Data On African Elephants 



Recently, Africa’s forest and savanna elephants have been listed as ‘critically endangered’ and ‘endangered respectively by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

  • The current population of the two species combined is around 415,000 and earlier, both were earlier listed as ‘vulnerable’.

 What are African Forest Elephant?

  • Scientific name: Loxodonta cyclotis.
  • Habitat
    • Mainly found in the Congo basin in west Africa, it lives in dense tropical rainforest. It has a more restricted natural distribution.
    • Gabon is home to the largest remaining population of forest elephants.
  • Physical Features
    • They have smaller, rounded ears. Their tusks point downwards, occasionally reaching the ground in older males, and their body is higher over the back legs.
    • They are smaller than their savanna relatives with the males rarely exceeding 2.5 metres at the shoulder.
  • These are essential to the survival of the rainforest (and its carbon storage) through their dispersal of seeds, delivery of compost and mineral-rich dung, and thinning of saplings.
  • Their pink ivory is denser and more easily carved into intricate statues so it is preferred by the hunters and poachers.
  • The population of African forest elephants has plunged by 86 per cent in the last 31 years which is concerning as these are likely to recover much more slowly.
    • They live in smaller family groups and have longer gestation periods than their savanna relatives, meaning that populations targeted by illegal hunting are often slow to recover.

African Savanna Elephant

  • Scientific name: Loxodonta africana.
  • Habitat
    • They prefer an open country and are found in a variety of habitats in sub-Saharan Africa including grasslands and deserts.
  • Physical Features
    • They have large ears that are the shape of Africa and allow them to cool their bodies more easily, and longer front legs, unlike their forest elephant relatives.
    • These are the biggest terrestrial animals on Earth, reaching up to 4 metres at the shoulder.
  • They live in larger familial groups in grasslands and deserts, roaming huge distances.
  • In response to the intense poaching of savanna elephants, the ivory trade was banned in the 1980s.
  • Their population has dropped by 60 per cent in the last 50 years but their numbers have been stable or growing. Their population can bounce back given sufficient protection.

                                                       (Image Courtesy: National Geographic)


  • Both species suffered sharp declines since 2008 due to a significant increase in poaching.
    • Poaching for ivory has been the scourge of African elephants over the past several decades. As both males and females possess tusks, the impact of ivory poaching is especially severe.
  • The ongoing conversion of their habitats, primarily to agricultural and other land uses, is another significant threat.
  • Another threat is the climate emergency. Due to climate stress, 80% of the fruit production of the rainforest trees has been compromised and the elephants are thinner than before.

Conservation Efforts

  • Stopping Poaching
    • The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) strives to eliminate illegal hunting in protected areas and end the hunting of forest elephants.
    • The Sangha Tri-national Anti-poaching Brigade of Gabon, Congo and Central African Republic, is an example of WWF’s regional approach to tackle illegal elephant poaching.
    • It has also established Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) methodologies in several protected area sites.
  • Tackling Illegal Trade
    • WWF and TRAFFIC, the world’s largest wildlife trade monitoring network, support a Central African Forest Commission commitment to put a regional network called PAPECALF.
    • This includes implementing the CITES Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) which monitors and tracks elephant ivory seizures.
    • It calls for increased anti poaching efforts, joint patrols in some transboundary areas, better customs controls at international transit points, more intense investigations, etc.
  • Bringing Benefits To Communities
    • WWF helps find investors and offers business training to conservancy members.
    • Tourism creates employment and fosters a variety of other sources of revenue, such as craft markets.
  • Easing Human-elephant Conflict
    • Chili bombs,” a mixture of dried elephant dung and hot chili, are placed in crop fields to keep elephants away as they do not like the smell of chili.
    • WWF has helped hundreds of villages implement practical measures to protect their crops and property from elephants.

Way forward and suggestions associated.

  • Well-managed conservation areas.
  • Policymakers and the ones with resources will have to come forward for active participation and to take up inclusive conservation measures.
  • Problematic law enforcement has to be changed in many Central African countries which are home to these elephants.
  • With persistent demand for ivory and escalating human pressures on Africa’s wildlands, everyone needs to creatively conserve and wisely manage these animals.

Source: IUCN 



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