Why Are Elephants Threatend?

Dramatic decline in elephant populations in the last few decades.


  • In 1930, there were between 5 and 10 million African elephants.

  • By 1979, there were 1.3 million.

  • By 1989, there were about 600,000 remaining, less than one percent of their original number.


  • At the turn of the century, there were an estimated 200,000 Asian elephants.

  • Today there are probably no more than 35,000 to 40,000 left in the wild.

They have an "Endangered" or "Threatened" status internationally.

Main causes for decline: Poaching and Habitat Loss


Ivory Trade

  • Tusks have been used in jewelry, piano keys, signature seals, and other items.

  • Even with ban - illegal trade continues and is growing because of increasing demand that mirrors Asia's economic growth.

  • At least 20 tons were smuggled in 2007.

  • And the price is growing

    • 1990s: $100 per kilogram
    • 2004: $200 per kilogram,
    • 2006: to $750 per kilogram
    • 2007: to $850 per kilogram

Poaching effects are devastating even to the surviving elephants:

  • often poachers kill all adults in a community

    • collapsing the social structure

    • leaving young elephants ¬†with no knowledge of migration routes or water sources

Other Elephant Parts Traded for Food and Trophy

  • Trophy highly prized among big game hunters.

  • Meat is eaten by local people.

  • Hide and other parts are used to make novelty items.

Human - Elephant interactions

  • Elephants need a lot of space - being so large with an enormous appetite and living in communities

  • Human populations in Africa and Asia have quadrupled since the turn of the century

    • the fastest growth rate on the planet

    • still growing fast

  • Forest and savanna habitat has been converted to cropland, pastureland for livestock, and timber for housing and fuel.

  • Challenges will increase as Asia and Africa further develop at their current pace.