A “red list” assessment of the two species of African elephant — the forest and savanna elephant — found that both are in danger of extinction due to poaching and human-caused habitat loss. Forest elephant numbers have declined by 86 percent in the past 31 years while savanna elephants have fallen by about 60 percent over the past 50.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which puts together the “red list” of endangered plants and animals, recently classified the African elephant as two separate species thanks to genetic evidence of their differences. Unfortunately, it’s not looking good for either of them. The forest elephant is classified as “critically endangered,” while the savanna elephant is “endangered.” Previously, the African elephant was simply considered “vulnerable.”
“Africa’s elephants play key roles in ecosystems, economies and in our collective imagination all over the world. Today’s new IUCN Red List assessments of both African elephant species underline the persistent pressures faced by these iconic animals,” said Dr Bruno Oberle, IUCN director general. “We must urgently put an end to poaching and ensure that sufficient suitable habitat for both forest and savanna elephants is conserved. Several African countries have led the way in recent years, proving that we can reverse elephant declines, and we must work together to ensure their example can be followed.”
According to a 2016 IUCN survey — the most up-to-date available — only around 415,000 forest and savanna elephants remain in Africa.