More African elephants have been, and are still being targeted for ivory than are being born, despite poaching levels falling continuously for the fourth year in a row in 2015.
The new data, released on UN world wildlife day shows roughly 60% of elephant deaths are at the hands of poachers, which means that the overall population is falling.
“African elephant populations continue to face an immediate threat to their survival, especially in central and west Africa where high levels of poaching are still evident,” says John Scanlon, secretary-general of the Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), which is responsible for collecting data. No less than 20,000 elephants were killed for ivory in 2015.
There are still some promising signs in parts of Africa, such as Kenya, where poaching has actually declined, according to Scanlon.
“This is showing us all what is possible through a sustained and collective effort with strong political support,” he said. “The momentum generated over the past few years is translating into deeper and stronger efforts to fight these crimes on the front line, where it is needed most – from the rangers in the field, to police and customs at ports and across illicit markets.”
In 2011, when poaching was at its peak, nearly 75% of elephant deaths could be attributed to poaching. Although poaching is on the decline, it still rises above sustainable levels in 2016.