Population & distribution

The African elephant once ranged across most of the continent, from the Mediterranean coast to the southern tip.  It is thought that in the 1940s there may have been as many as 3-5 million elephants in Africa; but from the 1950s, in the wake of intensive hunting for trophies and tusks, elephant numbers fell dramatically. And by the 1980s an estimated 100,000 elephants were being killed per year, and in some regions up to 80% of herds were lost.

  • Between 1998 and 2011 the illegal trade in ivory increased by nearly 300%
  • In 2011 poachers killed 40,000 elephants… that’s more than 1 every 15 minutes
  • Over 100,000 African elephants killed in 3 years by poachers, from 2010 through 2012
  • Three-quarters of local elephant populations are in decline
  • 90% of elephants in Chad’s Zakouma National Park have been poached since 2002
  • In Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve, elephant numbers fell from 70,000 in 2007 to just 13,000 by late 2013
  • In a single year, between 2013 & 2014, 60% of the elephants in Tanzania’s Ruaha-Rungwa ecosystem were poached
  • 49,316 elephants were slaughtered in under 5 years (2009 – 2014) across the Selous and Ruaha-Rungwa ecosystems
  • Africa’s forest elephants have been reduced by an estimated 76 percent over the past 12 years
  • 11,000 forest elephants were poached in the Minkébé National Park, Gabon between 2004 and 2012
  • The estimated poaching rate of African elephants in 2012 was 7.4%; this is an unsustainable level as it exceeds population growth rates which are estimated at 5%
  • Forest elephants will probably be extinct within the next 10 years if the trend in poaching continues