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How many elephants are there left in the world?
According to data collected by the WWF, just under 100 years ago there were over 10 million African elephants. Whilst in Asia, there were over 100,000 of the sm
How many elephants are there left in the world?
14 April, 2021 News, Blog
According to data collected by the WWF, just under 100 years ago there were over 10 million African elephants. Whilst in Asia, there were over 100,000 of the smaller, Asian elephants.
The numbers today are upsettingly low.
According to our calculations, less than 500,000 elephants exist today – and that is of both African and Asian species. In Africa, there are approximately 415,000 individuals left whilst in Asia, a mere 40,000.
Why are the numbers so low?
For those of you who closely follow the conservation situation in Africa, you will have heard that conservation efforts are having a positive effect and rates of poaching are going down – and they are. Statistics from Poaching Facts, show that since 2012 there has been a significant downward trend in instances of poaching.
So, it begs the question, why are the elephant populations still so low?
Well, the truth is poaching is still rife. An elephant tusk is worth an absolute fortune and for a poverty-stricken individual in East Africa poaching may seem like a great investment for his family. Add to this the fact that local people, who could be a bulwark against poachers, are occasionally apathetic to the large mammals. Elephants are often nuisances to local people and their livelihoods.
The main reason elephant populations are so low however is because we have only just emerged out of the worst period for elephant poaching in human history. Instances of poaching may have dropped since their peak in 2012, but the last 25 years have been a living nightmare for elephants.
The 1980s were a bad decade for elephants. Rampant poaching caused the elephant population in Africa to decrease from 1.3 million to 600,000. Eventually, CITES banned the commercial ivory trade in 1989 due to the alarming figures.
However, over the next two decades, CITES repeatedly backtracked on its decision and granted several African countries the right to sell to countries where the demand was high like Japan and China.
How fast are elephant populations growing?
Well, elephant populations struggle to increase for many reasons and many of them are extremely difficult, if not impossible to solve.
In Kenya, the situation seems rosy, since the devastation of the 1980s, elephant populations have more than doubled. They went from around 16,000 to 34,000.
However, not all African countries are having the same success as Kenya. According to the Great Elephant Census, elephant populations decreased by about a third from 2007 to 2014 and growth has been slow since then.
Elephants suffer massively from poaching which is an issue that nearly every sane person can agree on. However, they also suffer from growing human populations in African countries. In Kenya, the human population has increased from 31 million in 2000 to 53 million in 2021. The land that elephants could freely roam is rapidly shrinking.
This is why it is imperative that we invest money into methods of mitigating against human-wildlife conflict. Whilst it may seem unlikely, there are easy and affordable ways of creating symbiotic relationships between elephants and local people.
Help our cause
Sometimes, it is important to zoom out a little bit. Zoom out of your individual perspective and take in the wider perspective, because it is often when you do this that you can gain a new mindset, and motivation, for your efforts.
In the non-stop world of elephant conservation, it is too easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day nitty gritty details. How many carcasses did we discover today? How many young bull tuskers emerged this year? How many snares and encampments did we clear?
All this information is vitally important, and it helps keep us on track, but we need to keep one eye open to the global situation and whether our efforts are making a difference.
Here at Tsavo Trust, our task is particularly different. Whilst, in general, we are an elephant and wildlife conservation organisation, we also have the specific task of protecting the current and next generations of Kenya’s super tuskers. These animals are highly targeted by poachers due to their massive ivory tusks which can sell for around $150,000 each.
If you want to help us with this momentous task, you can go to our donation page. Donating is really easy, and we appreciate any and all amounts because the money goes directly toward preserving the next generation of elephants.
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© naturepl.com / Jeff Vanuga / WWF
Once common throughout Africa and Asia, elephant numbers fell dramatically in the 19th and 20th centuries, largely due to the ivory trade and habitat loss. While some populations are now stable, poaching, human-wildlife conflict and habitat destruction continue to threaten the species.
Instantly recognised around the world thanks to their trunks and tusks, elephants are the world's largest land animals. African elephant males are the biggest of the bunch, weighing in at up to 6 tonnes, while smaller Asian elephants can still tip the scales at 5 tonnes.
Female elephants are social animals, living in herds with their relatives. Males usually live alone but sometimes form small groups with other males. All elephants need a lot of space, sometimes roaming over incredible areas to find enough food and water to sustain them.
But their habitats are shrinking. African elephant habitat has declined by over 50% since 1979, while Asian elephants are now restricted to just 15% of their original range.
Add in growing human-wildlife conflict and an upsurge in ivory poaching in recent years and it's easy to see why elephants are under threat.
While some populations of African elephant are secure and expanding, primarily in southern Africa, numbers are continuing to fall in other areas, particularly in central Africa and parts of East Africa. With an estimated 415,000 elephants left on the continent, the species is regarded as vulnerable, although certain populations are being poached towards extinction.
Asian elephant numbers have dropped by at least 50% over the last three generations, and they’re still in decline today. With only 40,000-50,000 left in the wild, the species is classified as endangered.
And it is critical to conserve both African and Asian elephants since they play such a vital role in their ecosystems as well as contributing towards tourism and community incomes in many areas.
So by helping protect elephants, we’re helping conserve their habitat, supporting local communities, and making sure natural resources are available for generations to come.
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What is WWF doing?
The threats facing elephants in Asia and Africa are varied and complex from poaching to habitat loss to human-wildlife conflict.
WWF works to conserve elephants on both continents through specific programmes that aim to improve elephant protection and management, build capacity within range states, mitigate human-elephant conflict, and reduce poaching and the illegal ivory trade.
WWF personnel fit radio collars to elephants as part of the research effort to understand the Borneo pigmy elephant and conserve its future
© WWF / A. Christy WILLIAMS
How you can helpDon't buy ivory products. The illegal trade in ivory is one of the greatest threats to elephants today.Buy and use sustainable palm oil. By purchasing certified sustainable palm oil, retailers, traders and manufacturers can help limit the conversion of Asian elephant habitat into oil palm plantations. Consumers can help by demanding that products contain only sustainable palm oil.Buy a gift of chilies, dung and engine oil! Help reduce human-elephant conflict in Africa through this unique purchase.Donate to WWF to help support our elephant conservation work.
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DID YOU KNOW?
The elephant has the longest gestation period of any mammal at 22 months.
Healthy adult elephants have no natural predators.
The WWF Wildlife Crime Scorecard report selects 23 range, transit and consumer countries from Asia and Africa facing the highest levels of illegal trade in elephant ivory, rhino horn and tiger parts.
TRAFFIC is a joint programme of WWF and the World Conservation Union (IUCN) that monitors the global wildlife trade. TRAFFIC also works in close co-operation with CITES.
How Many Elephants are Left in the World?
How many elephants are left in the world? Would you believe that elephant populations have decreased by up to 99%?
How Many Elephants are Left in the World?
Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Updated: December 26, 2021
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The International Union of Conservation of Nature is a group that is working to conserve nature and use natural resources wisely. They maintain a comprehensive list of animals that are endangered called the Red List of Threatened Species. They assess animals and plants to see where they land on the scale from “Least Concerned” to “Extinct”. This list not only identifies the species that are most in danger of becoming extinct, it also gives advice on what needs to be done to prevent further decline. Let’s take a look at how elephants fair on the list and how many elephants are left in the world today.
How Many Elephants Are Left int the World
Today, there are at likely about half a million elephants left in the world. At one point more than 26 million elephants roamed the Earth.
The short answer is that there are at least 463,571 elephants in the world. While that number looks precise, there are of course many considerations to take into account, and there are vast differences between the populations of African and Asian elephants.
Keep in mind that while there may be slightly less than half a million elephant in the world today, this total is down dramatically from historical levels. In fact, it’s estimated that 10 million elephants may have lived on the African continent in the 1930s.
Go back even further to the 1500s and the population of African elephants may have reached as high as 26 million! Likewise, the Asian elephant now occupies less than 15% of its historical range and is incredibly fragmented. It is likely that elephant populations across the world are down up to 95 to 99% from their historic peaks experienced just 500 years ago.
How Many African Elephants Are Left in The World?
Two wild African Elephants interacting with each other. Elephants are highly social animals that need companionship.
As we noted above, there were once up to 26 million elephants across Africa. So the question is, how many African elephants are live today? The most recent estimates point to 415,428 African elephants remaining, but that’s across two separate species on the continent. Let’s examine each individually.
African bush elephant population
A close-up of an African Bush Elephant at Colchester Zoo, UK.
Millie Bond – Copyright A-Z Animals
These elephants are listed as Endangered with a population trend that is decreasing. The latest research count was done in 2016, the African Elephant Status Report estimated 415,428 elephants living in Africa. This is a combined number of African bush and African forest elephants. The biggest threat to the savanna elephant is the poaching for ivory. The ivory is prized for being used to make carvings, jewelry, piano keys, billiard balls, flatware handles and much more.
African forest elephant population
An African Forest Elephant mother with her calf, at the Dzanga saline (a forest clearing) in the Central African Republic.
African forest elephants are listed as Critically Endangered with a population trend that is decreasing. As mentioned above the count of these elephants were combined with the larger bush elephants for a count of 415,428, so it is difficult to know for sure how many of the forest species are left. The savanna elephants are easier to document because they live out in the open on the grasslands whereas the forest elephants can hide in the dense rainforests. The biggest threat to the forest elephant also is poaching for ivory.
Asian Elephant Populations
An Asian elephant mother with a newborn
Asian elephants are listed as Endangered with a population trend that is decreasing. The latest count of Asian elephants was in 2018 with an estimate of 48,323–51,680. But due to the fact that some Asian elephants also live in dense rainforests it is more difficult to obtain an accurate count. The breakout by country shows that India has the most elephants with a count of 29,964. The biggest threat to these elephants is habitat loss, human conflict, poaching and illegal trade. Since female Asian elephants don’t have long tusks you would think they would be more protected but there has been an increase in trade of other elephant body parts like their skin.
The skin is being used to make jewelry that is said to have good-luck. The conflict between humans and elephants is also a major threat to the Asian elephants. The more humans encroach on their habitats the more incidents of confrontation occur.