Learn the four causes of African elephant population declines. 

Updated: Why African elephant populations are declining

One of the big five animals in Africa is elephants. There are two types of elephants - the African forest elephant and the African Savanna elephant. As their name suggests, one lives in the thick forests and the other in the grassy plains. 

What many people do not know is that these animals are at risk of extinction. As of March 2021, the African forest elephants are classified as critically endangered, and the African Savanna elephant is classified as endangered

If conditions do not improve for the African elephants, one or both species could be lost forever. That is why our wild elephant conservation team wants to shine the light on what is causing elephant populations to decline over the years. 

Reasons why the African elephant population is shrinking

African elephants are losing their habitats. 

African elephants are not small animals. These animals are considered to be the largest land mammals. The African forest elephant stands at 7.9 to 9.8 feet tall, while the African Savanna elephant is around 13 feet tall. They require a lot of space to roam. 

The problem is that both species of African elephants are starting to lose their habitats. African forest elephants are losing their homes due to deforestation. The growing human population is using the forest for timber or agriculture purposes. Over time they could leave these elephants and other forest animals without a place to call home.

Not only are humans cutting down forests, but they are also expanding into the Savanna. People are starting to harvest crops and develop their villages. This expansion decreases the open spaces for elephants. 

African elephants have conflicts with humans. 

As human populations start to expand, more animals lose their habitats. This leads to elephants and humans having conflicts. Reports have found that more than 100 elephants die every year due to human-elephant conflicts

What happens is elephants will start to roam close to where humans live. Elephants will then raid the human’s crops and invade villages. This can result in the death of either the elephant or a human. That is why many wild elephant conservation organizations have started to look for solutions to protect both humans and elephants. 

African elephants are being killed for their tusks. 

An elephant’s tusks are its most distinguishable features. They help elephants do everything. Tusks help elephants dig, remove bark from trees, navigate through forests and defend themselves from predators. 

Just as they are useful to elephants, they are also desired by poachers. The World Wildlife Fund states that 20,000 elephants are killed each year for their tusks by poachers. Once the tusks have been removed, they are sold in wildlife markets. 

Many countries have tried to put a ban on the ivory trade to decrease the poaching of elephants. However, this has not completely stopped the demand for ivory. It is still being sold illegally in markets around the world. 

African elephants are not self-sustaining in zoos. 

Sadly, the African elephant population in zoos are not self-sustaining. Over the past 10 years, there have been more elephant deaths than births (3 births vs. 5 deaths). The reason behind this is due to increased infertility rates in African elephants. 

If reproductive rates do not improve, zoo elephants could face “captive extinction” real soon. That is why nonprofits, like For Elephants, are working to improve fertility rates and living conditions for all elephants. 

Want to help wild elephant conservation? 

Join our “Herd of Heroes.” These monthly donations will help us continue our research to improve the lives of wild and zoo elephants. Donate down below! 

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