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David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Threats to Elephants

Elephants were once abundant throughout Africa and Asia, but the illegal ivory trade has led to their demise.

During the twentieth century, wild populations saw a rapid decline due to insatiable consumer demand for ivory from Asian markets, as well as habitat loss.

In the last forty years, African elephant populations have declined by over 70%, from a population of over 1.3 million elephants that roamed Africa in 1979. Today, as few as 450,000 remain across both continents. There are three main threats to elephant populations:

Why are elephants endangered?

How we help protect Elephants

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Vicky Flynn
Cole Stirling
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Illegal Wildlife Trade

In 1989, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) banned the international trade in ivory.

However, despite recent closures, legal domestic ivory markets are still thriving in many countries (most notably Japan).

Running in parallel, and fuelled by the existence of legal markets, is a growing illegal black-market trade, encouraged by demand for wildlife products in Asia, which continues to drive the poaching of elephants.

In 1999 and 2008, there were two ‘one-off’ stockpile sales of ivory from southern African states to Asia, as an attempt to curb poaching. These were a catastrophic failure, instead causing a documented surge of illegal activity after each sale.

Take a look at David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation’s (DSWF) position against the ivory trade in our Ivory Trade Statement.

Human-Wildlife Conflict

Wildlife Trust of India
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

In the last 40 years, human populations have doubled, and there has been a mass expansion of agricultural and human settlements. Unsurprisingly, this growth has pushed humans and elephants into closer proximity and has escalated human-wildlife conflicts.

Elephants often wander into agricultural areas to raid crops, sparking retaliatory killings by farmers. Whilst many people in the west view elephants as majestic and sentient beings, they inspire anger and fear amongst communities living alongside them, and they regularly kill people.

Farmers in elephant range states are often desperately poor and nutritionally vulnerable, so any threat to their source of food and income is often swiftly and brutally dealt with. We work closely with communities to mitigate and reduce human-elephant conflict across Africa and Asia, using a wide range of methods including collaring, early-warning systems, and various preventive measures to discourage elephants from entering crop fields, such as chilli bombs.

Silke Hullmann
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Habitat Loss and Degradation

Elephants are rapidly losing their habitats because of agricultural and human settlement expansion.

It’s important to note that elephants are a trans-boundary species, which means they rely on migration and movement for their survival, rather than living in one place.

The rapid construction of roads, cities, and infrastructure throughout elephant range states is having a profound impact on elephant migration patterns with drastic consequences to their survival, as landscapes shrink, and viable habitats are threatened.

You can support our work to save endangered animals from extinction by adopting today.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Will Fortescue

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All donations will help us continue our vital work conservation work to protect endangered species and turn the tide on extinction.

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£40 could help fund an investigation connecting the legal trade in ivory and the illegal poaching of elephants.

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