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African forest and savanna elephants recognised as two species

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

A new assessment has recognised the African forest and savanna elephants as two separate species for the first time. This has highlighted both species are now threatened with extinction.

The IUCN Red List is the the world’s most comprehensive source on the global extinction risk of animal, fungus and planet species. It has categorised the African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) as being critically endangered. The African Savanna elephant (Loxodonta Africana) has been categorised as endangered. Before this recent update, the IUCN Red List treated the forest and savanna elephants as a single species listed as vulnerable. You can read more on why the African forest and savanna elephants have been recognised as two species by visiting the IUCN Red List website.

Poaching, alongside the conversion of elephant habitats into agricultural and other land uses, has resulted in sharp declines in elephant populations across the continent. Over the last 31 years, the population of African forest elephants has declined by more than 86%. African Savanna elephants have decreased by at least 60% over the last 50 years.

The results of these assessments put emphasis on the urgent need for the international community to step up its efforts to curb wildlife crime and preserve vital habitats. Dr Dave Balfour (assessor of the African elephants and member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission) also noted that “at a site level, some subpopulations are thriving”.

The Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier, a key area in which DSWF works, has seen the stabilisation of elephant populations in recent years and even growth. This highlights the impact of successful conservation efforts including anti-poaching, community engagement and more supportive legislation which seeks to foster human-wildlife coexistence. 

Our work protecting elephants ranges from engaging in international policy to fight for legal protection to funding ground-based conservation projects to help elephants remain safe within their natural habitat. If you’d like to find out more about the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF), understand how we protect elephants or see how you can help us turn the tide on extinction, please visit our website.

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