The Elephant extinction crisis in Africa


After being granted 10,000 hectares of land in Ethiopia in the first decade of the twenty-first century, Flora EcoPower Holding AG, a German biodiesel producer, destroyed the forests. Since then, encroachment, settlements, and forest removal have all risen in Ethiopia and has affected African elephant population.

According to new satellite data released by Oxford’s School of Geography and the Environment and Born Free, the number of unlawful human settlements in Ethiopia’s Babile Elephant Sanctuary has increased from 18,000 to over 50,000.

With a population of more than 110 million people, the nation has a critical lack of land and a limited supply of environmental assets. Increasing human-related pressures, insufficient government support, and civil unrest threaten the integrity and efficacy of many conservation areas.

According to the specialists, unless the sanctuary’s purity is preserved and protection and hunger concerns are resolved, the Babile Elephant Sanctuary’s elephants will be extinct in a short period. The sanctuary is dedicated to Africa’s furthest north-eastern community of African Savannah Elephants, one of just six in Ethiopia.

WWF Elephant Statistics

World Wide Fund for Nature data states that, a century ago, there were over 10 million African elephants. There were over 100,000 Asian elephant species in Asia. As of 2021, fewer than 470,000 elephants survive now of both African and Asian varieties. In Africa, around 415,000 members are remaining, but in Asia, a meagre 40,000. African elephants are incredibly sociable animals that live in herds headed by matriarchs who are elderly and single. 

Issues related to elephant population reduction

  • Poaching for Elephant ivory and wildlife trade
  • Killing for food
  • Habitat Loss of elephants
  • Man- wild conflict
  • Illegal encroachment into wildlife and increasing forest settlements
  • Agricultural expansion and mining into forests
  • Cyanobacteria toxin-related death
  • Culling to reduce population


Botswana has more elephants than every African nation, and southern Africa is home to 293,000 elephants or 70% of the projected surviving African elephant population. However, over 500 elephants have died in Botswana in the previous three years, with cyanobacteria toxins being blamed for their deaths.

Kenya – The only country with an Elephant boom in Africa

Due to anti-poaching and preservation initiatives, the number of elephants in Kenya climbed from 16,000 in 1989 to over 36,000 in 2021. To combat unlawful poaching, the Kenya Wildlife Service is allegedly ramping up anti-poaching efforts. Their wildlife conservation approach includes including local people in wildlife management.

Cameroon and Central Africa

The African forest elephant has long been killed for its tusks and meat, putting Central Africa in jeopardy. African woodland elephant populations are declining at a rate of more than 10% each year.

Elephant poaching is widespread in Cameroon’s Deng-Deng National Park and Nja Biosphere Reserve areas, home to around 450 elephants. The region is well-known as a significant hub for the trading and trafficking of elephant products.


The Zimbabwe government body manages five million hectares of land of national parks and conservation spaces. Zimbabwe’s elephant population is expected to reach 100,000 by 2021, making it Africa’s second-largest elephant population behind Botswana.

According to the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, Zimbabwe slaughtered more than 50,000 elephants over five culling operations between 1965 and 1988. Zimbabwe is considering letting elephants be ‘culled’ in 2022 to reduce the 100,000-strong population.

IUCN Warning

According to specialists at the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Africa’s elephant population would be devastated due to poaching and habitat damage if this trend continues.

Classification of Elephants 

As per biologists, three species of elephants are African savanna elephant, African forest elephant, and Asian elephant.

African Savanna Elephants – Loxodonta africana

IUCN Status: Endangered

African Savanna Elephants is found in 23 countries, and the recent continental assessment of African Elephants states the total number of Savanna and Forest varieties at over 415,000, with African Savanna Elephants accounting for almost three-quarters of the total. 

The Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, which spans Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Zambia, and Angola, is home to more than half of the Savanna species. African Savanna Elephants were categorized as Endangered on the IUCN Red List in 2021 because of the loss of nearly 60% of the population since 1965. 

The main concern to African Forest Elephants has been ivory poaching. However, as appropriate elephant habitat is steadily decreasing, the expansion of agriculture and concomitant human-elephant conflict puts growing pressure on African Savanna Elephants over most of their range.

African Forest Elephants –Loxodonta cyclotis

IUCN Status: Critically Endangered

The African Forest Elephant’s range spans 20 nations, with Gabon accounting for more than half of the population. This species will be categorized as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List in 2021 since more than 80% of the population has been lost since 1984. Because African Forest Elephants have a far more extended generation period than African Savanna Elephants, they recover three times slower from population declines. 

Human-elephant violence has been a considerably less common hazard to African Forest Elephants than ivory poaching, but it is expected to escalate and engender hatred against elephants in regions where their range overlaps with rising rural people.

Asian Elephants – Elephas maximus

IUCN Status: Endangered

The Asian elephant lives in 13 nations throughout South and Southeast Asia in dry to wet forest and grassland environments. According to recent research, the combined impacts of human stress and climate variability would result in the loss of over 42 per cent of currently accessible habitat. 

For Asian Elephant conservation, the need to unite fragmented habitats via migration corridors remains a significant concern. The next major issue is the rise in human-elephant conflict, and due to degraded habitats, conflict is also increasing in other Asian nations with large elephant populations.

Elephant Conservation

  • Understanding elephant movement patterns, home ranges, land use patterns, and corridor use are essential in developing effective conservation strategies.
  • Stringent laws to reduce poaching and wildlife trade.
  • International funding from multilateral agencies and forest conservation support from developed economies.
  • Reduce man-wild conflict
  • Create elephant corridor
  • Training programs for wildlife guards and workers to save elephants
  • Expansion of MIKE/Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants program to all regions and countries.
  • In order to develop effective conservation strategies, it is necessary first to understand elephant patterns of movement, ranges, land use patterns, and passageway use.


TUBS, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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