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Extinction Countdown

Extinction Countdown

News and research about endangered species from around the world

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

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

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