Quick Facts

37 countries in sub-Saharan Africa with elephant populations

2 sub-species of African elephants – savanna (Loxodonta africana) and forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis)

76% of Africa’s elephants are transboundary – they migrate across political borders – meaning that most African elephants do not ‘belong’ to any one country.

African elephants play a keystone role in shaping the structure of forests, woodlands and savanna, creating spatial heterogeneity and landscape-level diversity, dispersing seeds and facilitating access to water for a range of other species.

Poached elephant in Botswana with the tusks hacked off.

Current continent-wide population estimated to be just over 400,000 – down from 600,000 a decade ago

30% of savanna elephants were killed between 2008 and 2014

60% of forest elephants were killed between 2002 and 2011

Most African elephants are listed on Appendix I (since 1989) – no international, commercial trade is permitted under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) regulations.

However, since 1997 elephants in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe are listed under Appendix II – international commercial trade in their products is permitted under certain circumstances (see CITES and elephants)

In 2008 the four Appendix II countries sold 102 tons of ivory to China and Japan. As a direct result, demand for ivory spiked and poaching increased drastically across the continent.

30 African countries calling themselves the African Elephant Coalition (AEC) are calling for a total global ban on the trade in ivory by placing all African elephants to be placed back on Appendix I

The AEC is interested in making sure that there is a healthy and viable elephant population free of threats from international ivory trade and with a vision and plan that will encompass National and Regional strategies that promote non-consumptive use of elephants through development of Ecotourism for the benefit of local communities.

Zimbabwe currently sells live wild-caught baby elephants to Chinese zoos and circuses. Over 100 have been captured and flown to China since 2014

China, the world’s largest trader in ivory, banned the legal sales of ivory within its borders on the 1st January 2018.

The United States, the second biggest market for ivory, has had a near-total ban since June 2016.

The European Union (EU) forbids exports in raw ivory , although exports of carved ivory pre-1947 (antique) are permitted and exports of carved ivory dated 1947-1975 is allowed when weighted under 200g. The EU is the largest exporter of antique ivory, mainly to China and Japan.

Japan and many other countries including African countries like Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, have thriving domestic ivory markets.

Domestic ivory markets are closing down in China and the US but remain open in many other countries.