The world’s largest land animal is facing the biggest threat to its existence over the last decade. A study just released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reveals a drop of 1,11,000 in African elephant numbers in the past decade, due to poaching for their tusks.
The IUCN’s African Elephant Status Report was announced at the ongoing Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cities) in Johannesburg. The first continent-wide assessment of the African elephant population in nearly 10 years, the report reveals that the last decade has witnessed the most devastating poaching for ivory in Africa since the 1970s and ‘80s. Eastern Africa, it said, shows a dip of nearly 50 per cent.
“These new numbers reveal the truly alarming plight of the majestic elephant—one of the world’s most intelligent animals and the largest terrestrial mammal alive today,” IUCN Director General Inger Andersen told Science Daily. Marked vulnerable by the IUCN Red List, the African elephant has been hunted for its tusks and meat, and suffered habitat loss of grassland and arid desert.
According to the study, the biggest numbers of these gentle giants are in southern Africa, home to over 70 per cent of the species. Zimbabwe and Namibia have healthy populations of African elephants in particular; read more in our guides to Namibia and Botswana, said to have the largest free-roaming herds of the species in Africa.