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Slaughtered for Ivory: 65 Percent of Forest Elephants Killed Since 2002

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forest elephantsIt just gets worse and worse. Last year a shocking study revealed that 62 percent of the world’s forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) had been killed by poachers between 2002 and 2011. Now a new update adds data from 2012 and 2013, finding that a total of 65 percent of the species has now been slaughtered for their valuable ivory tusks.

The news was released by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) on February 12 in conjunction with an international symposium on wildlife crime taking place in London this week.

Study co-author Fiona Maisels of the WCS said in a press release that “at least a couple of hundred thousand forest elephants” were killed in just those two years. That boils down to at least sixty elephants killed every day, “or one every 20 minutes, day and night,” Maisels said. “By the time you eat breakfast, another elephant has been slaughtered to produce trinkets for the ivory market.”

The situation is at its worst in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which was once the stronghold for the species. Now, 95 percent of the DRC’s forests are devoid of elephants. Another co-author, Samantha Strindberg of the WCS, called the loss “mind-boggling.” About 60 percent of the remaining population of forest elephants currently resides in Gabon, although that country has also experienced a massive poaching upswing over the past five years.

Forest elephants, which live exclusively in central African nations, were only conclusively proved to be a separate species from African savanna elephants (L. africana) in 2010.

In related news, the Obama administration this week announced new rules banning almost all imports of African elephant ivory, including antiques, which had previously been legal.

Previously in Extinction Countdown:

Photo: Forest elephants in Gabon, by Jefe Le Gran via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license

John R. Platt About the Author: Twice a week, John Platt shines a light on endangered species from all over the globe, exploring not just why they are dying out but also what's being done to rescue them from oblivion. Follow on Twitter @johnrplatt.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. carbonunit1 9:13 pm 02/12/2014

    what can you say about the stinking lowlife scum who carry out this genoside,or the superstitious throw backs who condume it,this can only be solved at the highest levels with an international rapid response team and a shoot to kill policy backed up by international confiscation and punative prison sentences for possesion and distribution,trade sanctions and world condemnation,and perhaphs by letting loose a few barrats and guys who know how to use them.NO MERCY FOR THESE SCUM.

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  2. 2. gs_chandy 8:21 am 02/13/2014

    Suggestion: death penalty to poachers and hunters.


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  3. 3. John R. Platt in reply to John R. Platt 8:23 am 02/13/2014

    Don’t forget, folks, this poaching wouldn’t be taking place if people in China, Japan, the U.S., the Philippines and other countries weren’t buying so much ivory.

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  4. 4. plswinford 3:06 pm 02/13/2014

    Here is a good use for drones with Hellfire missles.

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  5. 5. sasmon 1:57 am 02/14/2014

    If a “couple hundred thousand” elephants were killed in the last 2 years, and those equal 2% of the total population in 2002, then the population now is: 3.5 million elephants. There are 880 mountain gorillas. I just wanted to put this into perspective.

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  6. 6. John R. Platt in reply to John R. Platt 8:50 am 02/14/2014

    But 9% of mountain gorillas aren’t getting killed every year… and the ivory funds war, organized crime and terrorism. That’s added perspective.

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  7. 7. 9:07 pm 02/20/2014

    I am against the slaugher but where on earth was a census of forest Elephants been done?
    You are quoting figures thats above the entire Elephant population of Africa
    This most certainly does not help the cause, it only generates the type of un informed comments as published


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  8. 8. John R. Platt in reply to John R. Platt 9:47 am 02/21/2014

    Read the paper I link to. It most definitely was a census of forest elephants.

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